We rarely associate footy with science, but in fact, science is as massive part of footy and the science involved is very complex. In this article series we explore the science of footy and uncover some hidden truths about the game.
Luke Briscoe

17 Feb 2017 - 6:03 PM  UPDATED 17 Feb 2017 - 6:08 PM

The body is a really fascinating machine. It's mechanics consist of chemicals and organs that push blood and chemical around or body surrounded by thick skin holding all our vital organs together.  

How the body response to high impact sports is really seriously amazing and in the sports science food really does matters and food plays a vital role ensuing that elite athletes have just enough energy to endure a professional footy match.


Why does food matter?

Sporting stars have extremely strict lifestyles and fitness regimes. If you ask an ordinary person what food they had in the last two weeks, they probably wouldn’t know. But when you ask an elite athlete the same question, they could most likely tell you what they had in the last three months.

Only in recent years has science has put the spotlight on sport and athletes, and also what happens to the body when athletes put themselves through near death experiences. Harvard research suggests that an elite footballer who weighs between 70-90 kilos burns about 260 and 311 calories every 30 minutes. A person takes in about 2700 calories per day - you do the maths...

“The more we know about the brain the more we realise how important food is to feed the brain.” Say’s professional Boxer and ex-NRL Footballer Joe Williams. 

“I’m someone who has a high protein diet and I balance the portion sizes to my body weight. Although there is a lot of energy consumed during a game or fight it’s important to balances diet. The carbs help me breakdown the food into amino acids and also helps repair your body after the game or fight,” he said.  

For rugby legend Mark Ella he says in his time diet was never mentioned and coaches just hoped that the athletes looked after themselves properly.

"In my day I used to have a steak around lunchtime on game day which I understand isn’t accepted these days. The dietician normally allocates diets for all days and importantly game day. Times have changed over the years and right now in elite sports, without a healthy diet you are wasting your time if you're hoping to perform at the highest level," he said.

"It's hard enough competing with the best and part of the preparation is about what you put in your mouth and when. During my time diet was never mentioned and coaches just hoped that the athletes looked after themselves properly.” 

High impact sports like footy are very physical and a lot of what we seen on our screens are the big tackles, or legendary sprints down the field. But how the players prepare mentally is rarely discussed... and the truth is there are some very complex physics that are at play with a football match and not only that, but a lot of strategy. 

Preparing mentally for a game:

When elite athletes prepare for a professional football game, the pressure is on as crunch time hits.  

For Joe, it's all about getting in the right head space.

"I think isolation is good as it allows you to put yourself in the zone because you don’t need to not have distractions," said Joe. 

Meanwhile Mark says you need a good mental approach. 

"Most of my game preparation was mental because I was generally in good shape and confident that I could hit to field for the entire 80 minutes. I used to visualise my game days before I actually played – I would almost play the game in my mind the night before a big match," he said. 

"Thinking about it now, in the change room before every game, I was normally very quiet because I was thinking about my role and how I combined with the rest of my teammates. It's interesting because looking back on it, half the time I wasn't paying attention, I was just half asleep. But now, part of the reason I was made captain was to get my enthusiasm delivered to the other players rather than sitting in the corner half asleep."

Mark says believing in your own ability and skills is a huge element. 

"I was always confident that I could have an influence of the outcome if I played to my potential so from my experience having a good mental approach is half the battle."

How do you unwind from a massive game?

When a footballer plays a professional game they excerpt massive amounts of energy and the chemicals in the body after the game is still in the body even days after a match. Our bodies pump natural drugs like endorphins, which can heighten your feelings and emotions... if your sad or happy the drug has a way of heightening the perception and for those winding down is just as important as getting ready. For Joe Williams and Mark Ella, well this is how they do to unwind from a big game.   

"Family time is important for me. My post fight ritual is a have a BBQ with family. You get a good BBQ and load of on food. Physical and mental recover." Says Joe Williams.

"Unwinding is easy because after finishing one tough game, my mind and body started preparing for the next big game one week away." said Mark Ella.

Catch the action from last week, the men’s and women’s Indigenous All Stars, Redfern All Blacks vs. the Cherbourg Hornets and the U16’s Interstate Challenge. Only on NITV (CH34) this Sunday at 2pm!