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.