In the high-stakes world of professional sport, coaches and trainers follow science to guide them on protocols that ensure peak performance by players when it’s needed most – and the science is clear that a comprehensive warm up routine (including light aerobic activity together with stretches and sport-specific exercise) improves performance[i].
In a meta-data review of 32 of the most comprehensive studies based on randomised controlled trials, “warm up” when it included all three elements mentioned above, improved performance 79% of the time by increasing muscle and tendon suppleness, stimulating blood flow, increasing muscle temperature, and enhancing free, coordinated movement.
Sports Massage plays an important part in this improved performance, with pre-game massage delivered as a short, vigorous rub with light to medium pressure that prepares the player’s muscular-skeletal system for the exertion to come, while keeping the mind focused and calm.
In her experience gained over 20 years of working with professional rugby players, Sports Massage Therapist Daliah Hurwitz knows that the psychological aspect of an athlete’s pre-game ritual is as important as the physical warm up.
She says, “Mental and emotional stability is as vital to success on the field as the physiological preparedness of the body. The ability to stay both calm and focused during periods of increased stress can have a huge effect on a player’s performance, and a pre-game massage should be an integral part of the ritual that helps them kick start their readiness for the game to come.”
“Many players have a game day ritual to keep themselves as calm and stress-free as possible, while also helping themselves to focus and psych-up at the correct time - not too soon or too late. By warming up the body correctly, they know that they are physically prepared to perform at their peak when it counts and this contributes to a calmer state of mind.”
The Wintergreen™ Heat Therapy range allows Daliah and her players to choose which heating intensity is best suited to that player’s specific warm up requirements, as well as the weather conditions at the time. Wintergreen™ Muscle Warm Up, which provides the least intensive heating out of the range, is her chosen option in warmer climates, and as a starting point for players who have not used heating products before.
Says Daliah, “It’s ideal for stimulating circulation and facilitating loosening up, without the player overheating. The active ingredients, menthol and wintergreen oil, work by causing alternating cooling (vasoconstriction) and heating (vasodilation), as well as providing anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and pain-relieving properties. When first applied it feels cool on the skin, but when massaged deeper and more vigorously, it warms up the muscles and keeps them insulated - improving range of motion and minimising injuries for an extended period of time. The blended shea butter and beeswax carrier, which melts on the skin when rubbed, forms a barrier which protects against skin irritation while still allowing the skin to breathe and sweat.”
For players that can tolerate more intense heat, Wintergreen™ Muscle Warm Up Ultra provides all the benefits of the original, but with added capsicum/ liquid pepper that comprehensively increases the core body temperature, improves blood circulation, and keeps muscles loose and flexible for hours. This is important when playing in colder climates, when stoppages in play can cause body temperature to drop quickly and result in soft tissue injuries when activity is resumed.
“Muscle Warm Up Ultra is the preferred choice for players whose muscles are very tight and stiff, and who need to loosen up quickly and stay loose. It is the heating product I use the most during winter tours to Europe and America, and it not only keeps my players warm during games and training, but also during periods of inactivity such as while travelling,” she says.
The shea butter and beeswax in Wintergreen™ Muscle Warm Up and Muscle Warm Up Ultra help to prevent any skin irritation that may be caused by the powerful active menthol, wintergreen and capsicum, but users should take care not to apply over broken skin, and wash hands after application to avoid getting it into the eyes.
For players who require an even more intense heating sensation, such as those playing in freezing conditions or who need to target a specific muscle group with increased heat, Wintergreenä Hot Muscle Cream and Heat Spray provide the next level of heat in the Wintergreen™ range – you can read about them in our next blog.