An investigation into the use and effectiveness of post-exercise recovery protocols for team sport

Crowther, Fiona Alyce (2017) An investigation into the use and effectiveness of post-exercise recovery protocols for team sport. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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A variety of post-exercise recovery strategies are used by team sport athletes. However, little research has investigated the use of recovery strategies by team sport athletes across a range of competition levels. Furthermore, equivocal evidence exists to support the use of one recovery strategy over another. The aim of this thesis was therefore to investigate recovery usage by team sport athletes across a range of competition levels in various sports, and the effects of differing recovery strategies after single and multiple bouts of simulated team sport match-play exercise.

A systematic review of the literature revealed CWI, CWT and ACT produced mostly equivocal effects in comparison to CONT for performance and perceptual recovery. Cold water immersion and CWT also improved performance and perceptual recovery in a number of instances, CWI also decreased performance in a small number of instances. No differences were indicated between ACT and CONT for performance recovery and mostly for perceptual recovery, with a small number of decreases after ACT in comparison to CONT for perceptual recovery. Current evidence was therefore not conclusive on the effectiveness of these recovery strategies.

Three original studies are subsequently presented in this thesis that aim to address the current unclear evidence on recovery strategies. The aim of the first study (Chapter 3) was to identify via survey which recovery strategies are currently used by Australian male and female team sport athletes of varying competition levels. Three hundred and thirty-one athletes were surveyed across fourteen team sports and five levels of competition; 57% of whom reported utilising one or more recovery strategies. All international athletes reported using massage for recovery. Athletes of all other competition levels utilised stretching (STR) the most (98% national, 79% state, 87% regional and 77% local athletes). Water immersion strategies were most often used by national and international athletes. Stretching was self-rated the most effective recovery strategy (4.4/5; where 5 = very effective) with active, land-based (ALB) considered the least effective by its users (3.6/5). Laziness and time constraints were the main self-reported reasons provided by those who did not undertake a specific recovery strategy. Water immersion strategies were considered effective or ineffective largely due to psychological reasons. In contrast STR and ALB were considered to be effective or ineffective mainly due to physical reasons. Results from Chapter 3 indicate that the perceptions of athletes on recovery strategy effectiveness did not always align with scientific evidence. The availability of particular recovery strategies may also affect recovery strategy selection. It is recommended that athletes and coaching staff are provided with up-to-date information on the effects of different recovery strategies to ensure informed decisions are made regarding recovery strategy selection.

The aim of the second study (Chapter 4), a randomised controlled trial (RCT; N = 34), was to compare the effectiveness of CWI, CWT, ACT, a combination of cold water immersion and active recovery (COMB) and a control (CONT) condition after a single bout of simulated team-game circuit exercise (55 min). Performance and perceptual recovery indices were assessed over a 48 hr time period. Results suggest that CWI and COMB produced detrimental jump power performance at 1 hr compared to CONT and ACT, and thus should not be selected for short term recovery. It is likely that 1 hr was not sufficient time for muscles to rewarm after CWI and COMB resulting in decreased jump performance at this time. Findings also suggest CWT should be elected for short-term perceptual recovery after a team sport game. The heat component of CWT may have contributed to feelings of relaxation and accordingly enhanced perceptions of recovery. No between recovery differences were found at 24 and 48 hr post the simulated team-game circuit exercise.

The aim of the third study (Chapter 5; N = 14) was to examine the use of CWI, CWT, ACT, COMB and CONT recovery across repeated small-sided games simulating acute tournament match-play (three 15 min efforts, 3 hr apart, with recovery after bouts 1 and 2) upon performance, perceptual and physiological indices of recovery over an 8 hr time period. Results indicated that CWT was superior to ACT for performance, and COMB was superior to ACT and CONT for perceptual recovery during the simulated tournament day. The ACT recovery was detrimental to performance and perceptual recovery and thus a similar ACT recovery protocol should not be elected for use in a team sport multiple-game tournament day. The mechanisms most likely associated with the beneficial CWT findings compared to ACT include a combination of the negative effects of ACT such as no rest and increased energy consumption and the positive effects of CWT such as the alternation between vasoconstriction and vasodilation. During a COMB recovery the actions of hydrostatic pressure and leg movement may assist with blood flow and enhanced perceptions of recovery. The ACT recovery is most likely detrimental during a tournament day due to the extra metres covered, adding to the experienced soreness and fatigue.

The results of the RCTs question the high anecdotal use of CWI by national and international athletes as reported in the survey, with CWI found to have no positive effect upon performance or perception after a single bout of a simulated team sport or during a simulated tournament day.

In conclusion, the current research has highlighted the need for athlete and coach education on the effects of recovery strategies, noting the limitations associated with the inconclusive nature of evidence regarding the use of specific recovery strategies. Contrast water therapy is recommended to be used for short term perceptual recovery after a single team sport event. A COMB recovery should be elected for superior perceptual recovery over a team sport tournament day. The research presented in this thesis has significantly contributed to post-exercise recovery research by providing an overview of recovery strategy use by Australian-based team sport athletes and by providing evidence-based recommendations from trials that compare the effectiveness of various recovery strategies used by team sport athletes. These findings provide athletes and coaches with up-to-date information to assist with informed decision making about their recovery choices in particular sports and contexts. Recommendations for future research have also been identified, including investigation into whether performance or perceptual recovery is more important and whether individualised recovery is required for optimum team performance.

Item ID: 51634
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: cold water immersion, contrast water therapy, stretching/flexibility, active recovery, perceptual recovery, team sport athletes, match-play exercise, muscle recovery
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Additional Information:

Author also publishes as Fiona Pringle.

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 3: Crowther, Fiona, Sealey, Rebecca, Crowe, Melissa, Edwards, Andrew, and Halson, Shona (2017) Team sport athletes’ perceptions and use of recovery strategies: a mixed-methods survey study. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 9 (6). pp. 1-10.

Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2017 04:02
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science > 110699 Human Movement and Sports Science not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950102 Organised Sports @ 100%
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