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International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2013, 8, 243-253 © 2013 Human Kinetics, Inc.
This study investigated the efficacy of a single exposure to 14 min of contrast water therapy (CWT) or cold-water immersion (COLD) on recovery postmatch in elite professional footballers.
24 elite footballers participated in a match followed by 1 of 3 recovery interventions andmonitored for 48 h postmatch.
Repeat-sprint ability (6 × 20-m), static and countermovement jump performance, perceived soreness, and fatigue were measured prematch (Immediately, 24 h, and 48 h).
Postmatch, players were randomly assigned to complete passive recovery (PAS; n = 8), COLD (n = 8 (1 × 14-min, 12°C)), or CWT (n = 8) (7 × 1-min, 38°C alternating with 7 × 1-min, 12°C)
Immediately postmatch, all groups exhibited similar psychometric and performance decrements, which persisted for 48 h only in the PAS group.
Repeat- sprinting performance remained slower at 24 and 48 h for PAS (3.9% and 2.0%) and CWT (1.6% and 0.9%) but was restored by COLD (0.2% and 0.0%).
Soreness after 48 h was most effectively attenuated by COLD, but remained elevated for CWT and PAS. Similarly, COLD more successfully reduced fatigue after 48 hthan did CWT and PAS. Declines in static and countermovement jump were ameliorated best by COLD.
Comparison between groups for absolute change in mean (compared with prematch) throughout the 48-h recovery period for (A) muscle soreness and (B) perceived fatigue. a Small effect compared with COLD; b small effect compared with CWT; c moderate effect compared with COLD; d moderate difference compared with CWT; e large effect compared with COLD; f large effect compared with CWT; g very large effect compared with COLD; h very large effect compared with CWT. PAS indicates passive recovery; COLD, cold-water immersion; CWT, contrast water therapy.
The major finding was that a single 14-min application of COLD after an AF match was more effective for restoring physical performance, reducing perceived fatigue, and alleviating muscle soreness than either CWT or PAS. Despite conflicting evidence regarding the effectiveness of COLD and CWT in typical team- sport situations our findings demonstrate that both modalities help restore postexercise physical and psychometric measures.