Association between post-game recovery protocols, physical and perceived recovery, and performance in elite Australian Football League players.
2012 Sports Medicine Australia. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
A full squad of 44 footballers (original 45, but one player was subsequently excluded from the study as a result of a chronic injury) was monitored weekly across a 23-game season. Players were required to choose from a number of recovery modalities available within 10–20-min post-game.
- floor stretching (ten minutes of gentle static stretching)
- pool stretching (approximately ten minutes of static stretching in the shallow end of a 28◦C pool)
- bike active recovery (low intensity on a bicycle for 8 min at a self-selected resistance)
- pool active recovery (low intensity exercise in a 28 ◦ C pool for 8 min involving a range of movement activities such as structured gentle swimming and lunging)
- cold-water immersion (body immersed to the hip in an ice-bath maintained between 6 and 11 ◦ C for 8 min)
- contrast therapy (body immersed to the hip, alternating between a 1 min ice-bath, (6–11 ◦ C), and a 2-min spa-bath (38 ◦ C), for 12-min)
- compression garment (which were worn ad libitum and the hours of wear were recorded by the players.)
Perceptual measures of recovery (six-question; recovery, fatigue, muscle soreness, stress levels, sleep quality and the ‘hardness’ of the previous training/game. Players rated each variable on a 1–5 scale, with one representing the positive end of the continuum) were recorded throughout the week and a test of physical performance (assessed using vertical jump (VJ) test) was conducted two days post-game.
Players who became injured or ill and missed training or competition were not excluded from the overall study, but the players availability was count was competed in either the national AFL competition (n = 22 per week) or, when not injured, in the state league (SANFL) competition (n = 8–14 per week).
Typical the season training consisted of two short team practices (approximately 60 min each), 1–2 fitness sessions (30–90 min) and 1–2 resistance sessions (30–90 min) per week. There was a main training session each week lasting 90 min and, on most weeks, a competitive game.
Statistically significant associations were found between a number of post-game recovery protocols and perceptual recovery.
In general, players who choose Cold Water Immersion, Stretching, no-active recovery (neither bike or pool) and the use of a compression garment post-game had an increased probability of reporting greater perceptual recovery across the following week, relative to all other recovery protocols chosen. However approximately three-quarters decided to use CWI and a compression garment. For those using compression garments about 20% wore it longer than 12 h (i.e., overnight) and 30% less than 2 h.
There were no associations found between post- game recovery protocol combinations and physical recovery. No associations were found between the post-game recovery methods and the next game performance.
Conclusions: Perceptual recovery among players was enhanced through the selection of specific combinations of recovery protocols post game. However, no links were found between recovery protocols in combination or between post-game recovery and performance measures.