Water immersion in athlete recovery
: a multi-disciplinary approach to informing practice

  • Sonya Moore

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Health (DHealth)


Aims:To explore and inform current water immersion recovery practice of high performance athletes; and to compare recovery interventions of 5 minutes cold water immersion, warm water immersion and passive rest, in trained subjects, following intense exercise replicating the demands of game-sports.Methods: Study 1: In a repeated measures design, a measurement approach for use in the evaluation of water immersion efficacy was piloted. The within-day and between-day reliability of surface electromyelography (sEMG), particularly functional wavelet analysis, was evaluated in human lower limb muscles. Functional wavelet analysis provides the opportunity to measure neuromuscular function at the greatest level of detail by differentiating the relative intensity of low and high frequency motor unit recruitment. On 2 consecutive days (Trial 1 & Trial 2), 12 participants performed 3x5 second isometric 80% maximal voluntary contractions (MVC) on a Biodex® dynamometer in each of 150 ankle plantarflexion, 200 knee extension and 200 knee flexion. sEMG was obtained from the medial gastrocnemius (MG), vastis medialis (VM), vastis lateralis (VL) and biceps femoris (BF) muscles. Joint position and force production were controlled. Electrodes remained in situ during each trial. Electrodes were removed upon completion of Trial 1 and replaced in the same position the next day for Trial 2. Simultaneous sEMG metrics for intervals of consistent force production were compared between contractions in Trial 1 and Trial 2 (between-day) and contractions within Trial 2 (within-day).Study 2: 11 trained participants completed the 90 minute Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test (LIST). Five minutes of COLD water immersion (8.8 ± 0.30C), WARM water immersion (35.1 ± 1.80C) and REST were compared in a repeated measures randomised cross over design. Recovery was evaluated at 2, 4 and 24 hours post exercise using circulating markers of muscle damage, muscle dynamometry, drop jump and repeated single leg hop performance tests and perceived recovery.Study 3: Current water immersion practice of high performance athletes, practice implications stemming from this study’s findings, and the rationale were explored. In a purposive, theoretical sampling approach of expert consultation, 8 professionals advising internationally competing athletes on water immersion recovery practice were provided with a research brief of this project in advance of a scribed, semi-structured interview. Participants were of Sports Coach, Strength & Conditioning Coach and Sports Physiotherapist professions with a minimum of 5 years’ experience working with internationally competing athletes; and differed in international location and sporting disciplines.
Date of Award29 Feb 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDylan Thompson (Supervisor) & Polly McGuigan (Supervisor)


  • water immersion
  • recovery
  • EMG
  • wavelet analysis
  • hydrotherapy

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