Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Despite debate regarding their effectiveness, many different recovery strategies are used by athletes after exercise. The aim of this unique study is to investigate the effects of five recovery strategies on indicators of performance, sit and reach flexibility, and perceptual recovery after fatiguing exercise in non-elite athletes.
Who can participate?
Healthy men aged 18-40
What does the study involve?
Participants undertake a simulated team-game fatiguing circuit followed by one of the following recovery strategies: cold water immersion (a cold bath), contrast water therapy (alternating between a cold bath and a hot bath), active recovery (jogging), a combined recovery of cold water and active recovery, or a control condition (sitting on a chair). Participants repeat this process for all five recovery strategies once per week. Before the fatiguing exercise, and at 1, 24 and 48 hours after, indicators of performance (repeated sprint ability and repeated countermovement jump), sit and reach flexibility, and perceptual recovery are assessed.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
Participants are able to try different recovery strategies and find out how each recovery strategy affects their performance. Participants are informed on the most effective recovery strategy for them. There are risks of injury to the participant.
Where is the study run from?
James Cook University (Australia)
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
August 2012 to August 2014
Who is funding the study?
1. Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (Australia)
2. James Cook University (Australia)
Who is the main contact?
Influence of recovery strategies upon performance and perceptions of healthy male recreational athletes following fatiguing exercise
Water immersion strategies were hypothesised to be superior to active and the control for performance and perceptual indices of recovery over the 48-hour time period.
Human Ethics Committee of James Cook University, 22/11/2013, ref: H5415
Single-centre randomised cross over trial
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised cross over trial
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use the contact details to request a patient information sheet
Performance and perceptual recovery from exercise
Healthy male participants undertook a simulated team-game fatiguing circuit followed by one of the following recovery protocols undertaken for 14 min. A verified randomisation tool (random.org) was used for randomisation of recovery strategy order for participants. Testing was undertaken once per week. All participants were assigned to complete all 5 recovery strategies (five participants were unable to complete all scheduled testing sessions, due to external factors unrelated to testing; however their data were included for completeness in quantitative analysis of the completed recovery protocols).
1. Cold water immersion included being seated in an inflatable bath, with shoulders immersed at a temperature of 15°C
2. Contrast water immersion included alternating between a cold bath set to 15°C and a hot bath set to 38°C, both to shoulder immersion depth, with participants instructed to change baths every 1 min
3. Active recovery included outdoor jogging around a marked and measured grass track at 35% peak speed with continual feedback to maintain the desired speed
4. The combined recovery was performed as per the cold water immersion protocol with the addition of low intensity cyclic leg movement inside the cold bath
5. The control protocol involved participants passively sitting on a chair, with as little movement as possible
Prior to the fatiguing exercise and at 1, 24 and 48 hours post-exercise, perceptual, flexibility and performance measures were assessed.
Primary outcome measures
Measured on each initial testing day - there were 5 initial testing days (1 per recovery strategy), on these days the measures were assessed at baseline (when participants arrived) and 1 hr after the fatiguing exercise. These measures were then assessed at 24 and 48 hr post fatiguing exercise
1. Muscle soreness assessed using the muscle soreness scale, a 10-point Likert scale from 0 (no soreness) to 10 (very very sore) (Pointon & Duffield, 2012)
2. Total quality recovery (TQR) assessed using a scale that ranged from 6 (below very very poor recovery) to 20 (above very very good recovery) (Kenttä & Hassmén, 1998)
3. Flexibility assessed using the sit and reach test
4. Repeated sprint ability, assessed using a maximal 20 m sprint every 30 sec with six repetitions (Elias, Varley, Wyckelsma, McKenna, Minahan, & Aughey, 2012; Elias, Wyckelsma, Varley, McKenna, & Aughey, 2013)
5. Jump height and power measured using the countermovement jump test including five jumps of maximal height on a mat, one jump every 15 sec (Eias et al., 2012; King & Duffield, 2009)
Secondary outcome measures
1. Daily analysis of life demands, assessed using the DALDA questionnaire which lists a series of life-stress and symptoms of stress, where participants label each item with a letter; “a” means worse than normal, “b” means normal and “c” indicates better than normal (Rushall, 1990), assessed at the beginning of the testing day
2. Hydration status, assessed via urine specific gravity measurement with the use of a handheld refractometer. These measures were conducted when participants arrive on the initial testing day, and when they arrive for their 24 and 48 hr post testing session days
3. Heart rate monitored throughout the fatiguing exercise
4. Rating of perceived exertion, measured using Borg’s RPE (Borg, 1998) at the completion of the fatiguing exercise
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Participant inclusion criteria
3. Able to complete the fatiguing exercise
4. Participated in regular aerobic exercise
5. Aged 18-40 years
Target number of participants
Participant exclusion criteria
1. Not elite athletes
2. Contact sport athletes
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
James Cook University
Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (ice bath purchase)
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
James Cook University
Funding Body Type
private sector organisation
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
Planned publication in BMC Sports Science Medicine & Rehabilitation.
IPD sharing statement
The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are/will be available upon request from Fiona Crowther.
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
Available on request
Results - basic reporting