Context: Despite prior studies that have addressed the recovery effects of cold-water immersion (CWI) in different sports, there is a lack of knowledge about longitudinal studies across a full season of competition assessing these effects.
Objective: To analyze the CWI effects, as a muscle recovery strategy, in professional basketball players throughout a competitive season.
Design: A prospective cohort design.
Setting: Elite basketball teams.
Participants: A total of 28 professional male basketball players divided into 2 groups: CWI (n = 12) and control (n = 16) groups.
Main outcome measures: Muscle metabolism serum markers were measured during the season in September-T1, November-T2, March-T3, and April-T4. Isokinetic peak torque strength and ratings of perceived exertion were measured at the beginning and at the end of the season. CWI was applied immediately after every match and after every training session before matches.
Results: All serum muscular markers, except myoglobin, were higher in the CWI group than the control group (P < .05). The time course of changes in muscle markers over the season also differed between the groups (P < .05). In the CWI group, ratings of perceived exertion decreased significantly from the beginning (T1-T2) to the end (T3-T4). Isokinetic torque differed between groups at the end of the season (60°/s peak torque: P < .001 and ηp2=.884; and 180°/s peak torque: P < .001 and ηp2=.898) and had changed significantly over the season in the CWI group (P < .05).
Conclusions: CWI may improve recovery from muscle damage in professional basketball players during a regular season.
Keywords: competition; exercise; strength.