To determine whether a facilitated recovery via cold-water immersion (CWI) after simulated rugby sevens would influence parasympathetic reactivation and repeated-sprint (RS) performance across 6 matches in a 2-d tournament.
Ten male team-sport athletes completed 6 rugby sevens match simulations over 2 d with either postmatch passive recovery (PAS) or CWI in a randomized crossover design. Parasympathetic reactivation was determined via the natural logarithm of the square root of the mean of the sum of the squares of differences between adjacent R-R intervals (ln rMSSD). RS performance was calculated as time taken (s) to complete 6 × 30-m sprints within the first half of each match.
There were large increases in postintervention ln rMSSD between CWI and PAS after all matches (ES 90% CL: +1.13; ±0.21). Average heart rate (HR) during the RS performance task (HRAverage RS) was impaired from baseline from match 3 onward for both conditions. However, HRAverage RS was higher with CWI than with PAS (ES 90% CL: 0.58; ±0.58). Peak HR during the RS performance task (HRPeak RS) was similarly impaired from baseline for match 3 onward during PAS and for match 4 onward with CWI. HRPeak RS was very likely higher with CWI than with PAS (ES 90% CL: +0.80; ±0.56). No effects of match or condition were observed for RS performance, although there were moderate correlations between the changes in HRAverage RS (r 90% CL: –0.33; ±0.14), HRPeak RS (r 90% CL: –0.38; ±0.13), and RS performance.
CWI facilitated cardiac parasympathetic reactivation after a simulated rugby sevens match. The decline in average and peak HR across matches was partially attenuated by CWI. This decline was moderately correlated with a reduction in RS performance.
Douglas, Handcock, and Rehrer are with the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Plews is with High Performance Sport New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand.