Recovery in Soccer – Part II—Recovery Strategies

Søernes Fysioterapi Facebookpage:
Sø 2. Physioblog Andreas Bjerregaard 3.Søernesfysioterapi

Recovery in Soccer – Part II—Recovery Strategies

– Sports Med (2013)

In the formerly published part I of a two-part review, the fatigue after soccer matchplay and recovery kinetics of physical performance, and cognitive, subjective and biological markers was examined.

To reduce the magnitude of fatigue and to accelerate the time to fully recover after completion, several recovery strategies are now used in professional soccer teams.


Following a literature search using PubMed to establish a complete list of recovery strategies, 32 practitioners in charge of recovery strategies in French professional soccer teams were questioned on the strategies they implemented. The results showed that cold water immersion and contrast water therapy (88% of teams), active recovery (81%), massage (78%), stretching (50%), compression garments (22%) and electrical stimulation (13%) were the strategies used. Nutrition and hydration were considered as very effective recovery strategies by 97% of the practitioners, while sleep was also considered as an effective recovery strategy (95% of practitioners).


In this summerizing, I only comment on Cold water immersion and Massage.

Cold Water Immersion.

The effects of cold water immersion on physical performance and on subjective and biological markers following soccer- specific exercise. Cold water (temperature range: 9–10 °C; duration range: 10–20 min) immersion post-exercise provided worthwhile beneficial effects on anaerobic performances, i.e. maximal strength, sprint ability and countermovement jump. Moreover, cold water immersion was beneficial in reducing muscle soreness and decreasing CK and myoglobin concentrations.

Cold water immersion protocols are generally heterogeneous in terms of temperature, duration and level of immersion and the best compromise has yet to be determined. Other cold water immersion protocols (temperature range: 10–15 °C; duration range: 5–15 min) were all found to provide beneficial effects on maximal strength, sprint ability, cycling performance and rowing performance, and reduced localized oedema.

Time (e.g. immediately after the match, delayed several hours after the match, or the day after) and frequency of use are other important issues related to cold water immersion.

A study on running performance on the subsequent day between immediate cold water immersion and delayed cold water immersion trials were similar, while immediate cold water immersion resulted in a 79% likely benefit when compared with delayed cold water immersion. The study demonstrates that cold water immersion immediately after a high-intensity exercise session was more beneficial for next-day running performance than cold water immersion performed 3 h after the session.

The recovery benefits of cold water immersion are most likely due to water temperature rather than hydrostatic pressure. Full-body immersion in cold water at 15 °C for 15 min reduces blood flow to the legs and to the arms, inducing a redirection of blood flow from the periphery to the core and thereby improving venous return and cardiac efficiency. Cold water may also reduce acute inflammation from muscle damage and has a short-term analgesic effect related to reduction of nerve conduction velocity, muscle spindle activity, the stretch-reflex response and spasticity, thus inhibiting the pain-spasm cycle.

Generally, cold water immersion is an effective recovery strategy during acute periods of fixture congestion to improve physical performance and reduce muscle soreness.

Skærmbillede 2015-12-13 kl. 17.24.29


78% of French professional soccer teams used massage as a recovery approach with  numerous techniques such as effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, friction and vibration.

Effleurage involves light pressure at the beginning to heavier deeper pressure towards the end and aims to soothe sore muscles and to relax. Petrissage involves a kneading motion where tissue is compressed and lifted away; it aims to loosen muscle. Tapotement consists of repeated rapid hand striking and aims to stimulate muscle tissues. Friction is short deep stroking parallel or transversally across the tissue fibre direction and aims to reduce muscle spasms. Vibration consists of shaking and aims to facilitate muscle relaxation.

Expected benefits of massage include both physio- logical and psychological functions. Pulsed Doppler ultra- sound and echo Doppler have been used to investigate muscle blood flow and indicated that manual massage. But It did’nt increase blood flow in small (forearm) or large (quadriceps) muscle mass and No beneficial effect was found for blood lactate removal. The scientific evidence supporting massage psychological benefits is substantially greater.

Weinberg et al. observed a positive relationship between massage and mood state. Two studies found that massage decreased the subjective symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Hemmings et al. investigated the effect of massage on a measure of perceived recovery (subjects rating their feeling on a 4-item (refreshed, recharged, rested and recovered) during the 1-h recovery implemented between two simulated boxing bouts). The results showed that massage intervention significantly increased perceptions of recovery compared with the passive rest intervention without improving punching force during the second bout.

However, no significant treatment differences for eccentric hamstring peak torque were reported and the soreness is poorly correlated with changes in muscle function. In terms of performance recovery, most of the studies failed to find a significant beneficial effect of massage on subsequent exercise.

It should not be excluded that massage of injured tissue may lead to further damage in muscle if given immediately after a training session that induced muscle damage.


In conclusion, scientific evidence to support the use of strategies commonly used during recovery is lacking. The lack of evidence, however, does not mean that these strategies do not aid recovery, but means that the protocols implemented until now do not significantly accelerate the return to the initial level of performance in comparison with a control condition.

For muscle damage, cold water immersion at a temperature between 9 °C and 10 °C for 10–20 min seems useful during acute periods of fixture congestion in order to regain as quickly as possible the initial level of performance and to repress the acute inflammatory process.

In the survey on recovery in the professional soccer teams, practitioners revealed that different recovery strategies are combined in overall recovery protocols. While the importance of isolating each strategy to determine its effects in future research remains important, it would also be interesting to analyse the potential interactions between the techniques.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s