Research finding 01/2021- Water Immersion
18 January 2021 / 0 comments

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ProCcare continuously extracts the newly published research studies on water immersion and whole-body cryotherapy. These studies are the basis of our literature database and form the foundation of our ProCare method which is implemented in our software solution. Our software solution assists athletic trainers, cryo-operators, and business owners who look for optimal support for their athletes and clients by limiting liability, increasing customer value, and elevating customer experience as opposed to the current one-size-fits-all approach.

This time:

Study: Malta, E. S., Dutra, Y. M., Broatch, J. R., Bishop, D. J. & Zagatto, A. M. The Effects of Regular Cold-Water Immersion Use on Training-Induced Changes in Strength and Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review with meta-Analysis. Sports Med (2020) doi:10.1007/s40279-020-01362-0.

Method: A systematic review and meta-analysis on eight included studies complying with the search criteria.

Primary findings by the authors: The regular use of CWI associated with exercise programs has a deleterious effect on resistance training adaptations but does not appear to affect aerobic exercise performance 

ProCcare's take-home message:

There is an ongoing controversy using cold-water immersion concerning muscle adaptation. As inflammation is an essential process in the adaptive response, repression via cold-water immersion seems inappropriate. While on the other hand, enhancing recovery throughout the week might lead to additional or more intense training leading to a more significant adaptation stimulus. The adaptation process is, arbitrarily, more important in endurance sports (sports that are identified via a high metabolic loading but lower mechanical loading) compared to intermittent sports as these athletes have a limited number of competitions per year. Intermittent sports (sports with high mechanical and higher metabolic loads like soccer or tennis) benefit from a higher training load apart from muscle adaptation by having extra time on the pitch to develop specific skills and practice with teammates concerning tactics or strategy.

Whether to integrate or not to integrate cold-water immersion in the whole recovery approach should be determined by the clinical decision; recover to adapt, recover to perform, recover to damage, based on the type of sport and the specific preparation phases over a season.

When preparing for competition, especially when the primary goal is to become stronger by gaining strength or muscle mass, integrating cold-water immersion should be discouraged, as evidenced by the results from the presented study from Malta and colleagues (2020). The option to use contrast water immersion, thermoneutral or hot water immersion is still wide open (think about the hydrostatic pressure effects, mental recovery, placebo effects and cardiovascular benefits), as the impact on muscle adaptation processes is attributed to the “cold.” During the competition phase of a season, the focus shifts and is shifted towards maintaining an athlete's physiological condition as opposed to its development. The management of these structural disruptions becomes essential concerning athletic performance, and in this respect, using water immersion could be highly valuable. Another phase over a season might be the recovery of an injured athlete, i.e., recover to damage. During this phase, integrating water immersion directly after the very acute phase of the injury is a unique tool to guide the transition from the water to the field and support the athlete from recovery.

How to apply these findings in practice (by ProCcare):

Malta and colleagues provide significant evidence that cold-water immersion has harmful effects on resistance training adaptations. These insights should be recognized and respected when your goal is "recover to adapt," and account specifically for strength-related applications and specifically when using cold water. Other forms of water immersion can still be considered during this stage. During the other stages, "recover to perform" and "recover to damage," your objective changes, and your options using for cold-water immersion are wide open.


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