The use and perceived effectiveness of recovery modalities and monitoring techniques in elite sport
Published on Jan 1, 2009in Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 3.62
· DOI :10.1016/j.jsams.2008.12.057
Post-exercise recovery techniques are being used increasingly in elite sport, but scientific study in this area is only emerging. The aim of this study was to collect information on the use and perceived effectiveness of the different recovery techniques used with athletes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 Queensland Academy of Sport coaches and other high-performance coaches from seven sports (three team sports and four individual sports). The interview questions sought to examine the coaches’ understanding of recovery, personal experiences, and the modalities and techniques used with their athletes. Interviews lasted an average of 45 minutes and were transcribed for qualitative content analysis and checked for accuracy by the coaches. Triangular consensus was used throughout the coding process to constantly revisit and redefine the open and axial codes that emerged. Three themes emerged: understanding of recovery, recovery modalities used, and monitoring of recovery. Understanding of recovery relates to the coaches’ overall view and general understanding of recovery. Coaches reported that recovery consisted of physical, mental and neural components, and is important to the overall performance, repeated performance, and training of athletes. Coaches gained their recovery knowledge from a variety of sources across their own athlete and coaching pathways. Transferring this knowledge to athletes was perceived as important for enabling athletes to implement and adhere to recovery within their training plans. The recovery modalities used most often were low-intensity activity, stretching, nutrition, massage, contrast water immersion, cryotherapy, sleep and rest. Practicality and accessibility (e.g., time and cost) for the athletes’ daily training environment were key factors influencing use of different recovery modalities. Coaches reported that they applied recovery modalities according to their own past coaching experiences or experiences of other coaches and sport science professionals. It appeared that coaches learn recovery information best by watching and speaking with others, especially other coaches and sports personnel. Factors contributing to use of recovery modalities include convenience and accessibility of a modality. Time restraint was an evident factor. Other factors that seem to contribute to the use of recovery modalities include the awareness of a modality’s existence, perceived modality strength of effect (or negative effect), and the compliance with and attitude of athletes to the modality. The personal experience of a coach using specific recovery modalities also impacted on whether the coach prescribed the modality and encouraged athletes to use the modality. However, it was clear from the study that athletes need to take responsibility for applying the recovery modalities themselves mainly because of logistical reasons. Recovery was monitored most often through informal observation rather than formal investigation. The most common monitoring approaches were coach observation and athlete reporting (diaries and discussions). Some coaches indicated that using a combination of approaches is useful and effective for gaining maximal benefits. Further investigation of monitoring approaches and prioritising them in terms of ease of implementation are needed. In summary, this study provided insight into the use of recovery modalities in elite sport and implications for use by professionals assisting coaches and athletes. In light of the limited research in some areas of recovery, a network could be established to capture the coaches’ learned experiences and information on recovery to share with each other across different sports.