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The effect of cold water immersion for recovery

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Hui Cheng Choo, Marcus Lee, Vincent Yeo, Wayne Poon & Mohammed Ihsan (2022)The effect of cold water immersion on the recovery of physical performance revisited: A systematic review with meta-analysis, Journal of Sports Sciences, 40:23,2608-2638.

The use of cold water immersion (CWI) for recovery is commonplace across sport. But how effective is this method across different areas of sports performance?

A new systematic review and meta-analysis by Choo et al. (2023) evaluated the use of CWI for recovery.

The authors revealed:

– CWI effective within 1 hour post endurance exercise when exercise performed in the heat.
– Unclear acute effects when at temperate environment.
– CWI improves recovery of muscle strength within 24-48 hours post exercise.
– Acutely impairs muscle power production, but can be effective within 24 and 96 hours post exercise.

ABSTRACT

This review evaluated the effect of CWI on the temporal recovery profile of physical performance, accounting for environmental conditions and prior exercise modality. Sixty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria. Standardised mean differences were calculated for parameters assessed at <1, 1–6, 24, 48, 72 and ≥96 h post-immersion. CWI improved short-term recovery of endurance performance (p = 0.01, 1 h), but impaired sprint (p = 0.03, 1 h) and jump performance (p = 0.04, 6h). CWI improved longer-term recovery of jump performance (p < 0.01–0.02, 24 h and 96 h) and strength (p < 0.01, 24 h), which coincided with decreased creatine kinase (p < 0.01–0.04, 24–72 h), improved muscle soreness (p < 0.01–0.02, 1–72 h) and perceived recovery (p < 0.01, 72 h). CWI improved the recovery of endurance performance following exercise in warm (p < 0.01) and but not in temperate conditions (p = 0.06). CWI improved strength recovery following endurance exercise performed at cool-to-temperate conditions (p = 0.04) and enhanced recovery of sprint performance following resistance exercise (p = 0.04). CWI seems to benefit the acute recovery of endurance performance, and longer-term recovery of muscle strength and power, coinciding with changes in muscle damage markers. This, however, depends on the nature of the preceding exercise.

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23 thoughts on “The effect of cold water immersion for recovery

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