The relative efficacy of three recovery modalities following professional rugby league competition matches
Achieving a balance between training and competition stresses and recovery is important in maximizing the performance of athletes. Specifically, following contact sport where the degree of muscular damage and trauma caused by numerous collisions is substantial, the rate and quality of recovery is crucial for each player to optimally recover prior to the first training session of the training week following a game. The physiological response of specific recovery modalities and their effect on performance have been commonly investigated following exercise. However the investigation of recovery modalities following contact sport and their effect on important recovery markers leading into the first training session following a game is limited. The use of active recovery and various hydrotherapy procedures are common modalities that are implemented into a recovery regime following a game and are thought to enhance the recovery process. The objective of this thesis was to analyze whether these recovery modalities provided beneficial recovery effects following professional rugby league matches. Literature surrounding all recovery strategies (excluding nutritional strategies) and its possible influence on physiological recovery following both delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) inducing exercise protocols and team contact sport matches was then appraised and discussed. Following these reviews an experimental study was conducted to investigate the relative efficacy of post game recovery modalities on jump height performance, perceived ratings of muscle soreness, and muscle damage 1, 18, and 42 hours following professional rugby league competition games. Twenty-one professional rugby league players performed three different recovery modalities (cold water immersion (Bleakley & Dawson, 2010), contrast water therapy (Vaile, Halson, Gill, & Dawson, 2008) and active recovery (Abraham, 1977)) following three competition games at 1, 18, and 42 hours post game. The effects of the recovery treatments were analyzed with mixed modeling with a covariate included (fatigue score) to adjust for changes in the intensity of each match on the post-match values of dependent variables. Standardization of effects was used to make magnitude-based inferences, presented as mean; ±90% confidence intervals. CWI and CWT clearly improved jump height performance (CWI 2.3; ±3.7%, CWT 3.5%; ±4.1%), reduced muscle soreness (CWI -0.95; ±0.37, CWT -0.55; ±0.37), and decreased creatine kinase (CWI -11.0; ±15.1%, CWT 18.2; ±20.1% ) by 42 hours post game compared to ACT. CWT was however clearly more effective compared to CWI on the recovery of muscle soreness and creatine kinase by 42 hours post game. Therefore CWT recovery following team contact sport is recommended.