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Iron out the creases with massage

Former Arsenal Ladies captain Faye White is one of English football’s most decorated players – having won 26 honours in 14 seasons with the Gunners.

At the age of 33 White shows no signs of letting up. The England international is intent on seeing her sideboard crack under the strain of trophies.

So what’s her secret? Her understanding of the human anatomy thanks to her sports massage therapy qualifications has played a crucial role.

Incorporating massage into her pre-match and post-match routines, White has stayed at the top of her game.

With the help of Arsenal Ladies physio, Claire Smith, FourFourTwo Performance was educated on the importance of recovery and how something as simple as an old fashioned rubdown can give you the edge.

What does massage do?

Faye: "They help get rid of all the waste product that builds up in your muscles during exercise.  When you exercise you're actually ripping your muscles and that's how your muscles grow in size and you get stronger.  Aiding the recovery of the muscles is crucial, and the best way to do this is by getting rubdowns."  

Claire: "Your muscles form small micro-tears after exercise. Sometimes these tears can cause swelling so a massage after training can help reduce swelling and also aid oxidation to the muscles. It helps flush out waste products like lactic acid and carbon dioxide from the muscles. They also help maintain flexibility, which will delay the onset of muscle soreness."  

Are there different types of massage?

Faye: "We tend to receive soft-tissue sport massages, however we also have more stimulating massages, known as hacking. This is where we focus on just one specific muscle group. This helps flush out the muscles. Massages depend on what you need at the time. Deep massages are good too for elbows and knees. This can be quite painful but needs to be done. We do it if our muscles feel really tight."  

Claire: "The type of massage we do after a game is effleurage. This is gentle soft-tissue massage that promotes blood flow and circulation. It helps drain any swelling and aims to make athletes more relaxed with less discomfort in their limbs. Effleurage can be very effective by increasing venous flow, which helps to reduce swelling."

When should you have a massage?

Faye: "As soon as possible. If I can't get a massage straight after the game, hopefully I will always be able to get one the next day. If we play away it's important to get one immediately after the game in the changing room. This will prevent muscle soreness on the coach ride home."  

Claire: "Players only really need them if they have an intense training week or if they have a lot of games in a short space of time such as international tournament.  If they are injured or have muscle stiffness, we will treat them as and when they need to. They will get a massage maybe three times a week, at least once after every game."

Why is it important to warm down?

Faye: "We do a warm down after every game which helps lower your body's temperature. For our warm down we will usually jog for 5 minutes from touch-line to touch-line. We will then do our stretches and hold them each for about 15 seconds and do it two to three times for each muscle group i.e. quads, hamstrings, calves etc. This will help keep our muscles stretched, instead of seizing up."  

Claire: "It normally last for around 3-10 minutes and it helps reduce the players' heart rate and the build up of waste products in the blood. I encourage them to do 3 minutes of light running and 10 minutes of aesthetic stretching of the main muscle groups. Stretching is crucial to maintain muscle length and strength. I also make sure the players are getting adequate rehydration too. Energy drinks as well as water are great for rehydration."

How do ice baths help with recovery?

Faye: “After the warm-down we have a shower. We normally have a hot and cold shower. They call that hydrotherapy. A lot of professionals find that this really helps, especially if you have training the next day. Ice baths are great as they help speed up recovery and improve blood flow to your muscles."  

Claire: "They are beneficial to reduce soreness in the muscles. Ice baths are good for players who are training at a high intensity, such as at competitions or pre-season. You're improving circulation to your limbs by having cold baths because your blood vessels are constricting, meaning your blood is getting pumped around the body quicker, getting oxygen to the muscles."

Faye White helped train the finalists of the npower Football League Girls' Cup, a nationwide competition for under-13 girls. The finalists are battling it out for victory at Wembley Stadium on April 3.