Science has come a long way in sports, especially in football. Before players retired in their 30s, now we have superstars who are almost in their 40s, playing at a spectacular level and winning the best individual awards.
Cases like Luka Modrić, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Karim Benzema among others, continue to give us years of good football thanks to the best knowledge of the human body. Their discipline and passion makes them different from the rest.
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Let’s take a look at the factors that extend the life of elite footballers.
Nowadays, much more importance has been given to gym sessions, so that the footballer can build muscle mass and strength. This is important because it prevents injuries that can end your career early.
This means a strengthening of muscle fibers. That did not work in the past. You have to look at the bodies of the players of the 80s, they have nothing to do with today’s players. Before you only had to have good technique, now you have to be strong to withstand the rhythm and explosion of modern football, being technical is no longer enough.
Obviously, apart from avoiding injuries and strengthening the muscles, it also lengthens the physical condition, so it is useful to endure the long seasons that they now have to play because the number of matches has doubled from 10 years to date.
Understanding what your body needs is essential. Previously overlooked, it is now known that a high-protein diet is essential for recovery and muscle building. Many players turn to a nutritionist for their needs, some want to lose weight to be lighter and faster so they eat in a calorie deficit.
Others want to gain muscle mass so they can’t be moved in one on one, so they eat in a caloric surplus, all of this is calculated and done carefully. Impossible to think of this 20 years ago. You have to have complete discipline in what you eat because that helps you to endure the long periods you are subjected to.
Alcohol consumption is controversial. It is not forbidden, but it was limited before there was no rule and that’s why many players got injured. Let us explain: Alcohol breaks muscle fibers and a big effort can break them and cause injuries. Now they try not to drink so much, because they know that an injury, with so much competition, makes them lose their place in the starting team.
As they extend the life of their career, older players are more valuable simply because of their vision and what they bring to the field. They become leaders and the pressure does not affect them as much as younger players.
A study was done that said that players who looked after themselves and were older than their teammates, made more accurate passes and better decisions in difficult moments. Having a clear mind in a game where you are losing is key.
Also, many of them don’t need to run as much and their wear and tear is less. They know the game well so they know how to position themselves and by not running so much they can manage themselves better. This avoids injuries and fatigue that sometimes affects them, because they take longer to recover due to their age, even with food supplementation.
Athletes have dedicated themselves to include weight lifting as part of their routine, this obviously helps a lot to build muscle, but this type of training burns a lot of calories and that makes the body adapt more easily to a football match where on average they run around 10 kms.
Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Leon Goretzka, and Robert Lewandowski are more muscular than anything else, and that obviously gives them a competitive edge and makes them much more resistant to injury, which we touched on in a previous point.
If they are playing in their late forties it is partly because of the incorporation of this type of strength training as a complement to the cardiovascular training they do with the team and on the side.
Before it was normal for a player to just go to training and come home and be sedentary, they didn’t do much else. Now they immediately do other types of training or have more commitments that make them constantly on the move.
They all know that a footballer’s life is limited and they want to extend it much longer, so they take care of even the smallest detail of their daily life so that they can perform on the field. The seasons are longer and the wear and tear is much greater, their body must withstand everything.
This obviously raises the level of everyone looking for different methods to get an edge. So if that means sacrificing and training more after team training, so be it. It’s not uncommon to see players on social media bragging about their gyms at home where they spend even more time.
It’s that their body is their working tool. It was understood a few years ago because they were retiring at a young age and the advances in science with nutrition and training extended their athletic life.
Not everything is good.
There is also a downside to age and that is injuries. The body can be a machine, but it has a useful age, and sometimes injuries don’t respect the hierarchy of the player and the training.
The older you get, the harder it is to get out of injuries, because the fibers have a harder time healing, no matter how much therapy and medical advances are available. The body recovers slower and if an inflammation left you out for a week, now it is possible that you can’t return to the field for a month.
It happened with Zlatan, who is in enviable physical shape, but his knee injury won’t let up and he had to play injured for part of the tournament where he was champion with Milan, and if Sweden had qualified for the World Cup he wouldn’t have been able to go because he underwent an operation from which he is still not recovered.
With age, times change for better or worse. Science and mentality have advanced, but it’s always up to each player and how committed they are to longevity on the pitch. Which veteran player do you like the most?
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