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Why Am I So Sore After A Soccer Game?

Why Am I So Sore After A Soccer Game?

Do your legs feel like deadweights are tied to your calf or thighs after a soccer game? Well, you are not alone. If you do a high-intensity exercise that your body is not used to, you will most likely end up sore—and that includes playing a soccer game for the first time.

Contact sports are notorious for leaving the participating athletes with notorious injuries. Since soccer is a contact sport, soccer players are usually prone to injuries as they come into contact with other soccer players during a tussle for the ball. Injuries will leave the area feeling sore.

If you feel sore after a soccer game, it is most likely because you have sustained micro or macro injuries. However, some of the injuries that soccer players have to deal with don’t always result from contact with other players. Wearing faulty gears can leave you with injuries.

For example, wearing new or wrong-fitting soccer cleats will lead to the development of blisters. When blistering occurs during a soccer game, you may not start feeling it immediately because the high pumping of adrenaline pushing you to win the game will block off most of your nerve sensors.

However, as soon as the game comes to an end and the adrenaline stops pumping, you will start feeling the soreness around your heels, toes, or wherever the blistering happens.

While there is no denying the fact that injuries are one of the main reasons why a soccer player will feel sore after the game, are injuries the only reason for soreness? Certainly not!

There are myriads of reasons why you will end up feeling sore after a soccer game. We will tell you all about it in the subsequent subheadings. Keep reading to find out.

Why am I so sore after a soccer game?

If you feel sore after a soccer game it is probably because you did something that your body is not used to. You may be a regular soccer player but maybe this time you pushed yourself more than your body was used to.

Feeling sore after a soccer game is not limited to new soccer players alone. Elite soccer players can also feel sore for several reasons including;

  • Accumulated fatigue
  • Wearing the wrong soccer gear
  • Tight schedule during season peak
  • Collision with other players
  • Inadequate warm-up prior to the soccer game
  • Playing for the first time after weeks of inactivity
  • Lack of adequate recovery before the next game

Excluding injuries, let us talk about the various factors separately to see how they work in leaving you sore after a soccer game.

Accumulated fatigue

There are three main causes of fatigue namely lack of sleep, physical inactivity, and muscular exertion. Soccer players are often guilty of the first and third.

Even after having a hectic game that often lasts over 2 hours, rather than give their body a break to recover, some soccer players often spend the night partying rather than sleeping thereby increasing their fatigue level.

friends have fun with a party

In 2021, Paulo Dybala and a few other teammates were suspended by Juventus ahead of their game with Torino. Although the reason was for breaking Covid-19 protocols, they would not be the first soccer players to party before or after their game.

Fatigue can reduce your reaction and decision-making time which can increase your risk of taking a reckless hit from another soccer player. Thus, while fatigue may not directly leave you feeling sore after a soccer game, it will increase your chances of sustaining an injury that would.

Wearing the wrong soccer gear

One of the most important soccer gears is the soccer cleats. Your choice of soccer cleats can make or mar you. It will affect how you feel during and after the game.

The heavier the soccer cleats you choose, the more pressure they will exert on your calf muscles. In some cases, it may lead to muscle pull which will leave you feeling sore even when the pain has subsided.

indoor soccer players wearing shin guards

Also, when you wear soccer cleats that are slightly bigger than your feet, you will experience heel lift as you pace around the soccer pitch. Persistent heel lift will lead to rubbing the heels with the interior of the soccer cleats, leading to blister formation.

Whether you end up with muscle pull or blisters, the effect is the same. You will feel sore after the game—and that may keep you out of the pitch for a few days.

Tight schedule during season peak

With the increasing pressure from televisions and fans, there has been a multiplication of soccer competitions to meet fans’ growing need for entertainment. Across every continental league, 38 games are played.

However, some teams participate in 2 or 3 other intercontinental competitions (like the Champions League) meaning some players may have to play more than 38 games in a season. Let us use Barcelona FC’s prodigy, Pedri, to illustrate just how many games soccer players have to deal with in some seasons.

In the 2020/21 season, Pedri made consistent appearances for Barcelona across all competitions as well as represented Spain at the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Euro 2020. In total, the youngster made 73 appearances for club and country in that season alone.

The effect of all that stress was a thigh injury that kept him out of the beginning of the 2021/22 season. The more games you play, the higher the chance you will feel sore after each game.

Collision with other players

Collision among soccer players can be mild or severe. In severe cases that lead to concussion like that of Petr Cech, the player is taken out of the pitch immediately.

soccer players collide with each other

However, for mild collisions involving the lower limbs, the medics will usually use magic spray on the player. The job of the magic spray is to make the pain and soreness from the collision go away. Sadly, the effect is temporary.

So, the soreness and pain will likely come back after the game when the effect of the magic spray wears out. One way to deal with the soreness from collision is to place an ice pack on the area.

Inadequate warm-up prior to the soccer game

Warm-up is a crucial part of every game. Before the commencement of any game, soccer players will usually take 5 to 15 minutes to do warm-up exercises.

These exercises range from jogging to stretching exercises. As a soccer player, warm-up is not optional but should be accorded maximum priority.

Soccer player warm up

Those light exercises warm up the muscles making them more flexible and resilient to tear. Studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to wear and tear than warm muscles.

If you feel sore after a soccer game, consider increasing the variety and duration of your warm-up exercises.

Playing for the first time after weeks of inactivity

If you are just getting into soccer, expect sores after a soccer game for the first few games. The frequency and intensity of the soreness should start to abate when you start playing more frequently.

Also, at the end of each league season, soccer players usually take some weeks off from club activities. The duration of inactivity can be longer if there is no country duty to attend to.

When the next league season begins, soccer players are likely to feel sore after their first few games. This is why most elite teams organize pre-season tours that help their players to get back in shape.

Lack of adequate recovery before the next game

Some players are simply indispensable to their teams because of their incredible talents. The coach will usually rely on such players for crucial games.

If you are such a player, there is the likelihood that you will always be on the starting lineup or come in as a substitute for every game—even when the squad is rotated.

There are two popular theories on the cause of soreness after a soccer game. One of the theories says soreness is due to the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles as a result of anaerobic respiration.

an intense soccer game

Oxygen is needed for the breakdown of glucose in the body to give energy. The breakdown of glucose in the absence of oxygen will lead to the production of lactic acid.

What this simply means is that as some soccer players run around the pitch, they forget to breathe leading to insufficient oxygen in their body. This leads to lactic acid buildup and the soreness that follows.

The second theory says the soreness is from micro muscle tissue tear. The body can heal itself but will need adequate time to do so.

If you play too many games within short intervals, your body may not have the time to heal completely from the previous injury and every new game will exacerbate the situation. Therefore, you are bound to feel sore after every game.


Regardless of the cause of your soreness after a soccer game, rehydration and taking a carbohydrate and protein-rich food and drink can help your body to heal faster.

Also, cold and heat therapy produces positive effects on soreness. The best therapy for soreness is patience and time. Pain killers can help with any pain that you feel but they would not make your micro muscle tears heal faster.

We would advise that you gradually raise your training regimen rather than trying intense activities out of the blue. Gradually building up your training and game time will help your body and muscles to adapt to the training reducing the risk of soreness.

Soreness after a soccer game which is often called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) often starts some hours after the game and peaks after 24 to 48 hours. The soreness can last up to 5 days before total resolution.

Preparing mentally for soreness can help you deal with the pain and discomfort. If you want to be the best soccer player on the planet, you will have to push your body beyond its limit—and have to mentally prepare for soreness before they come.