Players, particularly new players and players that have been out of practice and out of condition will sometimes experience muscle pain or soreness without noticing a specific cause.
It is important to first diagnose whether the player is suffering “pain” or “soreness”.
Obviously, a player who is crying out or cannot walk is probably experiencing pain. However, many cases are not always so obvious, particularly with very competitive and driven players. Indeed, players may come to practice complaining of pain. One way, a coach can diagnose between “pain” and “soreness” is to simply ask the player.
If a player is experiencing muscle pain, most mild cases can be treated using the RICE method. A doctor should be consulted for more severe cases of muscle pain or pain involving bones, joints, ligaments, organs, the head, etc.
In most cases however, player aches that cannot be attributed to any direct twist, fall, collision, etc. will likely be soreness. Muscle soreness often occurs because players’ muscles are adjusting to new use and or greater intensity. Even players who have played other sports recently will often experience muscle soreness as different muscles that are not as much used in other sports, come into heavier play. This is all part of the body’s natural adaptation process.
Be certain that your players – particularly young ones – understand that as their muscles become accustomed to use and better conditioned, the soreness will go away. In the meantime, players can alleviate muscle soreness by:
- Utilizing the RICE method
- Taking aspirin or another such over-the-counter anti-inflammatory
- Using muscle rub such as Tiger Balm or Icy Hot
- Massaging the sore area
- Taking an ice or hot/cold bath
Finally, it is also important that coaches employ proper stretching and warm-ups as this will also help prevent injuries and can even reduce muscle soreness.