COLD-WATER IMMERSION DOES NOT ENHANCE RECOVERY OR ATTENUATE MUSCLE SORENESS OR FATIGUE

Stenson, M. C., Woelfel, J. R., & Helmer, J. L. (2013). Cold-water immersion as a recovery technique between two 5-km time-trials. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(5), Supplement abstract number 2914.

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"Athletes training several times per day or competing in tournament play experience a common problem with insufficient recovery time which may affect subsequent performance. For some athletes, it is imperative to return to physiological readiness as quickly as possible post-exercise. Cold-water immersion (CWI) is commonly used by athletes to speed recovery and attenuate muscle soreness, edema, and inflammation in order to maintain performance during subsequent exercise bouts."

This study investigated the effects of post-exercise cold-water immersion on successive 5-km running time-trials, perceived muscle soreness, and fatigue in endurance-trained adult males (N = 9). Ss completed two successive 5-km time-trials separated by 65 minutes of rest and either cold-water immersion or a passive-control treatment. Immediately following the first time-trial, Ss ran a 300-yard shuttle-run to ensure fatigue. After five minutes, Ss participated in either cold-water immersion (15 minutes at 10C) of the lower body up to the peak of iliac crest or 15 minutes of the control treatment of passive recovery. Ss completed both treatments with a minimum of one week separation, and completed both trials at the same time of day to control environmental factors. Perceived muscle soreness and fatigue were measured before the first time-trial, after the shuttle test, and before and after the second 5-km time-trial. Fatigue was measured on a 1-5 scale and perceived muscle soreness was measured on a 0-6 scale.

No significant difference was found between 5-km time-trial times for the two cold-water immersion treatments. Following the control treatment, 5-km time-trial times increased to a greater degree (non-significant) than the 5-km time-trial following the cold-water immersion treatment. No significant differences were observed between groups over time in fatigue or perceived muscle soreness. Perceived muscle soreness increased significantly from baseline and remained elevated in both conditions. Perceived muscle soreness post-cold-water immersion was non-significantly lower than reported after the control treatment.

Implication. Cold-water immersion performed immediately after a timed 5-km run, did not enhance performance or recovery or attenuate perceived muscle soreness or fatigue.

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