the aim of this review is to provide practitioners with current scientific information in the area of recovery and elite athlete performance, and where possible provide recommendations regarding usage.
What does affect athletics performance.
Possible Mechanisms of Massage Therapy
The biomechanical model primarily relates to increasing muscle-tendon compliance through mechanical pressure on the muscle tissue. This is thought to occur by mobilizing and elongating shortened or adhered connective tissue.
The mechanical pressure may stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, causing changes in hormones, heart rate and blood pressure. There is a small amount of scientific literature reporting increased skin and muscle temperature (2.5 cm deep) after massage treatment. However, this increase does not appear to translate into increased blood flow. Massage has been shown to reduce cortisol concentrations in dance students. However, while there is almost no evidence in elite athletes, reductions in cortisol and serotonin.
A reduction in neuromuscular excitability may occur with massage due to the stimulation of sensory receptors. One study has reported decreased H-reflex amplitude during massage. It has been suggested that this occurred as a result of decreased spinal reflex excitability through inhibition via muscle or other deep tissue mechanoreceptors. Additionally, massage is often used to reduce muscle spasm which causes muscle pain. The spasm is thought to activate pain receptors and/or compress blood flow casing ischemia. A realignment of muscle fibres as a consequence of massage is thought to reduce the muscle spasms. However, while this theory is quite well accepted, there is no scientific evidence to support it.
Improved mood and/or reduced anxiety as a consequence of massage have been reported in several studies. A lowered anxiety and depressed mood was reported in dance students who received a 30-minute massage twice a week for four weeks. Hemmings et al. compared massage, supine resting or touching control during a period of training in boxers. Massage improved the Profile of Mood State questionnaire subscales of tension and fatigue.
Practical Recommendations – Hydrotherapy
The following recommendations are based on current scientific information. The following recommendations are stated in the Modern Athlete and Coach.
- Where possible, full body immersion (excluding head and neck) should be implemented.
- Recovery interventions should aim to be practical and time efficient. Hydrotherapy interventions of 10-15 min duration appear to be effective.
- Current knowledge suggests water temperatures of 10-15°C (cold) and 38-42°C (hot) to be effective.
- An important outcome of hydrotherapy may be to reduce post-exercise core body temperature. Investigations into contrast water therapy have indicated that a 1:1 (hot:cold) ratio may be ideal in stabilising core temperature following exercise.
- It is important to recognise individual responses to various recovery interventions. Not every athlete will respond in the same way, and this should be acknowledged, particularly in team sport environments where a group of athletes often perform the same recovery protocol, regardless of game time, position, physiological status, body mass and composition.
Recovery Intervention: Cold Water Immersion
- Optimal temperature 12-15°C
- Where possible utilise full body immersion
- Complete post-game shower before cold water immersion session
- Ensure that cold water immersion is completed 70 min before the start of the next game
Alternative resources for performing cold water immersion