In The Media > Ground-breaking AIS Performance Recovery study


29 Apr 2011

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Netball program is taking part in a ground-breaking study of hydrotherapy as a method to improve exercise recovery. AIS Performance Recovery and AIS Physiology are testing the effectiveness of hot and cold showers on athlete perceptions, recovery and performance.

‘To our knowledge, there are no existing studies into the effect of hot and cold showers on athlete recovery and subsequent performance,’ said AIS Performance Recovery–Murdoch University honours student Laura Juliff. ‘This is especially important because when athletes are travelling for competition they often do not have access to baths, so it will be beneficial to know how effective the showers are.

‘The difference between the hot and cold baths and the showers is that the baths place hydrostatic pressure on the body that encourages the blood to move to the central cavity whereas the showers do not.’  Cold water immersion is used as a recovery method for a variety of reasons, but in particular for hydrostatic pressure effects and altering core and muscle temperature.

‘This is believed to alter blood flow and reduce inflammation and soreness resulting in the athletes feeling better after a game or training session and helping them recover faster,’ Juliff said. ‘So far a number of studies have examined the effects of whole body water immersion on recovery, but we are particularly interested in contrast [hot and cold] showers as a more practical approach.

‘We have conducted three testing sessions with the team including performance tests and a netball circuit to induce fatigue. These sessions were followed by a recovery session at the AIS Recovery Centre where the girls performed either contrast showers, contrast water immersion, or rested while we measured core and skin temperatures and perceptions of fatigue. This was followed by repeat performance testing using netball-specific protocols.

‘As part of the study we will also investigate the athletes’ change in perceptions of each recovery modality from the start to the end of the project, as this can play a huge role in an athlete’s recovery.’

‘I can’t comment on the results until they are all collated, however, anecdotally the girls have said that both hydrotherapy strategies [showers and water immersion] enhance their perception of recovery. This research will enable us to determine a preferred recovery method for each individual athlete.’

AIS netballer Nicola Grey is taking part in the project and said so far the testing is actually paying off – the team go into each training session feeling surprisingly fresh.

During the testing we have been hitting our personal best results. Then we back it up again for another session where we are still hitting our scores and we’re even improving them so that’s impressive,’ Grey said. ‘This research project will not only give us a better insight into recovery and why it is important but also how our own bodies recover.’

AIS Netball head coach Sue Gaudion believes the project will expand our understanding of the physical aspects of netball.

‘The results will either confirm what we have been doing already or tweak our thinking on recovery. If the results show any significant differences than what we have been doing we will change our behaviour immediately and so will many other sports,’ Gaudion said.

‘Our team is often required to play two games in one day or one game a day over consecutive days so this research is critical to our ability to maximise recovery to improve our performance, especially when nearing the end of a tournament.’

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Netball program is taking part in a ground-breaking study of hydrotherapy as a method to improve exercise recovery. AIS Performance Recovery and AIS Physiology are testing the effectiveness of hot and cold showers on athlete perceptions, recovery and performance.

‘To our knowledge, there are no existing studies into the effect of hot and cold showers on athlete recovery and subsequent performance,’ said AIS Performance Recovery–Murdoch University honours student Laura Juliff. ‘This is especially important because when athletes are travelling for competition they often do not have access to baths, so it will be beneficial to know how effective the showers are.

‘The difference between the hot and cold baths and the showers is that the baths place hydrostatic pressure on the body that encourages the blood to move to the central cavity whereas the showers do not.’

Cold water immersion is used as a recovery method for a variety of reasons, but in particular for hydrostatic pressure effects and altering core and muscle temperature.

‘This is believed to alter blood flow and reduce inflammation and soreness resulting in the athletes feeling better after a game or training session and helping them recover faster,’ Juliff said. ‘So far a number of studies have examined the effects of whole body water immersion on recovery, but we are particularly interested in contrast showers as a more practical approach.

‘We have conducted three testing sessions with the team including performance tests and a netball circuit to induce fatigue. These sessions were followed by a recovery session at the AIS Recovery Centre where the girls performed either contrast [hot and cold] showers, contrast water immersion, or rested while we measured core and skin temperatures and perceptions of fatigue. This was followed by repeat performance testing using Netball-specific protocols.

‘As part of the study we will also investigate the athletes’ change in perceptions of each recovery modality from the start to the end of the project, as this can play a huge role in an athlete’s recovery.’

‘I can’t comment on the results until they are all collated, however, anecdotally the girls have said that both hydrotherapy strategies [showers and water immersion] enhance their perception of recovery. This research will enable us to determine a preferred recovery method for each individual athlete.’

AIS netballer Nicola Grey is taking part in the project and said so far the testing is actually paying off: the team go into each training session feeling surprisingly fresh.

During the testing we have been hitting our personal best results. Then we back it up again for another session where we are still hitting our scores and we’re even improving them so that’s impressive,’ Grey said. ‘This research project will not only give us a better insight into recovery and why it is important but also how our own bodies recover.’

AIS Netball head coach Sue Gaudion believes the project will expand our understanding of the physical aspects of netball.

‘The results will either confirm what we have been doing already or tweak our thinking on recovery. If the results show any significant differences than what we have been doing we will change our behaviour immediately and so will many other sports,’ Gaudion said.

‘Our team is often required to play two games in one day or one game a day over consecutive days so this research is critical to our ability to maximise recovery to improve our performance, especially when nearing the end of a tournament.’