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SportsMedUpdate
  1. Martin P Schwellnus
  1. University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Effect of water immersion methods on postexercise recovery from simulated team sport exercise

In a randomised, controlled study, cold immersion following exhaustive simulated team sports exercise improved recovery (48 h later) by reducing soreness, and reducing loss in muscle strength

Background

Cold immersion as a method to accelerate recovery following exhaustive team exercise is commonly used – however, few studies have examined the efficacy of this method to improve recovery.

Research question/s

Does hot/cold contrast water immersion (CWI) or cold-water immersion (COLD) improve recovery following exhaustive simulated team sports exercise when compared with no recovery treatment?

Methodology

Subjects: 11 male team-sport athletes (27.5±6.5 years).

Experimental procedure: All the subjects were assessed and performed baseline measures of performance 10 m × 20 m sprints) and muscle strength (isometric – quadriceps, hamstrings and hip flexors). Subjects then completed three 3-day testing trials, each separated by 2 weeks. Each test consisted of 80 min of simulated team sports exercise followed by a 20-m shuttle run test to exhaustion and upon completion and 24 h later, participants performed one of the postexercise recovery procedures for 15 min (no recovery treatment – CON), cold water immersion (COLD) and hot/cold contrast water immersion (HEAT/COLD). Blood samples (inflammatory markers), muscle soreness ratings, sprint ability and muscle strength were assessed before and immediately after postexercise, and at 24 and 48 h postexercise.

Measures of outcome: Inflammatory markers, muscle soreness, performance (sprint, strength).

Main finding/s

Muscle strength: There were smaller decrements in isometric leg extension and flexion strength 48 h after the exercise in the COLD group.

Sprint performance: There was a more rapid return to repeated sprint performances in the COLD group.

Conclusion/s

In a randomised, controlled study, cold immersion following exhaustive simulated team sports exercise improved recovery (48 h later) by reducing soreness, and reducing loss in muscle strength.

Evidence-based rating: 7.5/10

Clinical interest rating: 8/10

Type of study: Randomised, controlled clinical trial

Methodological considerations: Well conducted …

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