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Influence of Contrast Shower and Water Immersion on Recovery in Elite Netballers.


This present study examined the use of contrast showers as an alternative to contrast water therapy for team sport recovery.


Skærmbillede 2015-12-09 kl. 22.47.48In a randomized, crossover design, 10 elite female netball athletes completed 3 experimental trials of a netball specific circuit followed by one of the following 14-minute recovery interventions:

  • (a) contrast water therapy (alternating 1 minute 38C and 1 minute 15C water immersion)
  • (b) contrast showers (alternating 1 minute 38 C and 1 minute 18 C showers)
  • (c) passive recovery (seated rest in 20C).

Repeated agility, skin and core temperature, and perception scales (Borg scale + 10-point Likert scale) were measured before, immediately after, 5 and 24 hours postexercise.


The main findings were:

  • (a) despite inducing fatigue after the netball specific exercise circuit in all conditions, no performance differences were noted between recovery conditions at any time point,
  • (b) core temperature was not different between conditions at any time point, although greater heat removal was observed in both water recovery conditions compared with control from immediately to 20 minutes postrecovery,
  • (c) overall positive perceptions of recovery were observed after contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with passive recovery
  • d) participants’ perceptions of contrast show- ers changed positively preintervention to postintervention.

No significant differences were observed for heart rate during the netball specific exercise circuit between the interventions.

Similarly, no significant differences were observed for the rating of perceived exertion during the net- ball specific exercise in the intervention.

No significant differences between recovery interventions were observed for core temperature. Regardless, there was a significant interaction between conditions for skin temperature at the immediately and 20 minutes post-recovery time points with a greater skin temperature in the passive condition when compared with contrast showers and contrast water therapy.

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No significant differences in repeated agility were evident between conditions at any time point. No significant differences in core temperature were observed between conditions. however, skin temperature was significantly lower immediately after contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with the passive condition.

Participants’ perceptions of fatigue.
Perceived effectiveness before the recovery intervention was greater for contrast water therapy compared with contrast showers and passive conditions. After recovery, participants perceived contrast water therapy and contrast showers to provide superior recovery benefits compared with the passive  condition. A change in positive perception prerecovery to postrecovery intervention was observed for contrast showers only.


Overall perceptions of recovery were superior after contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with passive recovery. The findings indicate contrast water therapy and contrast showers did not accelerate physical recovery in elite netballers after a netball specific circuit, but further, current literature indicates contrast water therapy can enhance recovery after team-sport activity; however, this was only observed 24 hours after the intervention. The psychological benefit from both interventions should be considered when determining the suitability of these recovery interventions in team sport.

It should be acknowledged that fatigue is a multidimensional phenomena consistent with both physiological and psychological changes, which can influence athletic performance. In this respect, the efficacy of recovery tech- niques should be evaluated at both physiological and psychological levels. It is possible for athletes who feel less pain and muscle soreness to have a heightened sense of well- being after recovery and perform better. For this reason, the placebo effect can have significant influence on the success of a recovery intervention.