Team sport athletes' perceptions and use of recovery strategies: a mixed-methods survey study

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2017 Feb 24;9:6. doi: 10.1186/s13102-017-0071-3. eCollection 2017.


Background: A variety of recovery strategies are used by athletes, although there is currently no research that investigates perceptions and usage of recovery by different competition levels of team sport athletes.

Methods: The recovery techniques used by team sport athletes of different competition levels was investigated by survey. Specifically this study investigated if, when, why and how the following recovery strategies were used: active land-based recovery (ALB), active water-based recovery (AWB), stretching (STR), cold water immersion (CWI) and contrast water therapy (CWT).

Results: Three hundred and thirty-one athletes were surveyed. Fifty-seven percent were found to utilise one or more recovery strategies. Stretching was rated the most effective recovery strategy (4.4/5) with ALB considered the least effective by its users (3.6/5). The water immersion strategies were considered effective/ineffective mainly due to psychological reasons; in contrast STR and ALB were considered to be effective/ineffective mainly due to physical reasons.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that athletes may not be aware of the specific effects that a recovery strategy has upon their physical recovery and thus athlete and coach recovery education is encouraged. This study also provides new information on the prevalence of different recovery strategies and contextual information that may be useful to inform best practice among coaches and athletes.

Keywords: Active recovery; Cold water immersion; Contrast water therapy; Stretching/flexibility.