The Beneficial Effect of Parasympathetic Reactivation on Sympathetic Drive During Simulated Rugby Sevens

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016 May;11(4):480-8. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2015-0317. Epub 2015 Sep 10.


Purpose: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Football / physiology*
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immersion
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Water


  • Water
  • Lactic Acid