What are the best recovery strategies after workouts for high school athletes?

By Dr. Dennis Cardone | Posted 2/16/2021

Having a recovery strategy after an intense workout is critical to help prevent injuries and to maximize athletic performance on the field.

Muscles are subject to high forces during intense exertion leading to microscopic damage and inflammation. A good recovery strategy will optimize healing. The following are strategies to enhance recovery.

Mom (and dad) are right. Sleep is critical. Inadequate sleep negatively affects maximal strength, reaction time, physical and cognitive performance, endurance and muscle recovery. Teenagers need to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

Strike up another one for parents: proper nutrition. Within one hour after extreme exertion, it is important to replenish the body’s fluid, protein and carbohydrate stores. Chocolate milk, peanut butter and sports drinks that contain salt are good options.

How about ice, cold water immersion or a cold shower after a workout? The evidence is mixed. There MAY be a beneficial effect on recovery. Whatever form of cold therapy you use, limit it to a maximum of 10-15 minutes in order to avoid possible complications.

Compression garments worn on the legs after an intense workout MAY also aid in the recovery process.

Commonly used strategies such as stretching, foam rolling, massage and supplements have not proven to have any significant benefit in the recovery process.

Adequate sleep, nutrition and an occasional day off from strenuous activity are the most important factors for a successful recovery after intense workouts.  

Dr. Dennis Cardone is an NYU Langone Sports Health expert and Co-Director of the Center for Young Athletes. NYU Langone is an official partner of USA Football. To learn more about their Sports Health services, visit nyulangone.org/sportshealth.