Recovery following rugby union matches: Effects of cold water immersion on markers of fatigue and damage

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Journal Article
Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 2019, 44 (5), pp. 546 - 556
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© 2019, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved. We investigated the effect of postmatch cold-water immersion (CWI) on markers of muscle damage, neuromuscular fatigue, and perceptual responses within 72 h after a rugby match. Twenty-two professional male rugby players were randomized into CWI (10 °C/10 min; n = 11) or control (CON: 30 min seated; n = 11) groups. Activity profile from Global Positioning Satellite systems and postmatch rating of perceived exertion were measured to determined match load. Biochemical (tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6), neuromuscular performance (squat (SJ) and countermovement jumps (CMJ), peak power output (PPO), rate of force development (RFD), stiffness, 10-and 30-m sprint time, and perceptual markers (soreness, perceived recovery) were obtained before and immediately after the match, and then at 30 min, 24 h, 48 h, and 72 h after the match. Magnitude-based inference and Cohen’s effect size (ES) were used to analyze change over time and between groups. Thus, the higher/beneficial, similar/trivial, or lower/harmful differences were evaluated as follows: <1%, almost certainly not; 1%to5%,very unlikely; 5% to 25%, unlikely; 25% to 75%, possible; 75% to 95%, likely; 95% to 99%, very likely; >99%, almost certainly. Changes were unclear for the match loads, sprint times, and perceptual markers between groups. Higher %ΔSJ at 24 h (very likely (ES = 0.75)) and in %ΔPPO_SJ at 48 h (likely (ES = 0.51)) were observed in CWI than in CON. Values in %ΔRDF_CMJ were higher immediately after (likely (ES = 0.83)), 30 min after (very likely (ES = 0.97)), and 24 h after the match (likely (ES = 0.93)) in CWI than in CON. Furthermore, %Δlog TNF-α were lower in the CWI group than in the CON group immediately after (almost certainly (ES = −0.76)), 24 h after (very likely (ES = −1.09)), and 72 h after the match (likely (ES = −0.51)), and in Δstiffness_SJ at 30 min after (likely (ES = −0.67)) and 48 h after the match (very likely (ES = −0.97)). Also, different within-groups effects throughout postmatch were reported. Implementing postmatch CWI-based strategies improved the recovery of markers of inflammation and fatigue in rugby players, despite no change in markers of speed or perceptual recovery.
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