Category: ice baths

New systematic review and meta-analysis

I realised I have not written much on this blog since our activities started at Aspire Academy. This is clearly a sign that we have been very busy at work but also that the only time I had to write it has been spent writing scientific work. As a department we are doing very well not only because our service provision improves on a daily basis but also because we are starting to produce a lot of applied scientific papers which I hope can help the coaching and sports science community Worldwide in improving the support to athletes. We have quite a good number of articles already published, a few in press and many submitted which means that by the end of 2015 we might be able to make a significant contribution to our willingness to learn more and share the learning.

The most recent effort is an extensive systematic review and meta-analysis on the topic of cold baths in adolescent athletes. This was triggered by the fact that many coaches and sports scientists working with young athletes tend to replicate processes and procedures observed in senior athletes without questioning appropriateness and effectiveness. Our conclusions are pretty clear: there is no evidence of benefits of such interventions in adolescent athletes and there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the implications for such recovery practice to negatively affect training adaptations. So as usual, there is a need for more and better studies to understand this with all the limitations of conducting studies in a youth population.

The article is free and completely accessible online. The abstract is below.
If you are interested in reading it, just click here and download the PDF.


Recovery and regeneration modalities have been developed empirically over the years to help and support training programmes aimed at maximizing athletic performance. Professional athletes undergo numerous training sessions, characterized by differing modalities of varying volumes and intensities, with the aim of physiological adaptation leading to improved performance. Scientific support to athletes focuses on improving the chances of a training programme producing the largest adaptive response. In competition it is mainly targeted at maximizing the chances of optimal performance and recovery when high performance levels are required repeatedly in quick succession (e.g. heats/finals). In recent years, a lot of emphasis has been put on recovery modalities. In particular, emphasis has been placed on the need to reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) typically evident following training and competitive activities inducing a certain degree of muscle damage. One of the most used recovery modalities consists of cold-water immersion and/or ice/cold applications to muscles affected by DOMS. While the scientific literature has provided a rationale for such modalities to reduce pain in athletes and recreationally active adults, it is doubtful if this rationale is appropriate to aid training with adolescent athletes. In particular, since these methods have been suggested to potentially impair the muscle remodeling process leading to muscle hypertrophy. While this debate is still active in the literature, many coaches adopt such practices in youth populations, simply transferring what they see in elite sportspeople directly; without questioning the rationale, safety or effectiveness as well as the potential for such activity to reduce the adaptive potential of skeletal muscle remodeling in adolescent athletes. The aim of this review was to assess the current knowledge base on the use of ice/cold applications for recovery purposes in adolescent athletes in order to provide useful guidelines for sports scientists, medical practitioners, physiotherapists and coaches working with such populations as well as developing research questions for further research activities in this area. Based on the current evidence, it seems clear that evidence for acute benefits of such interventions are scarce and more work is needed to ascertain the physiological implications on a pre or peri-pubertal population.

Recovery; Ice; Cold; Youth; Adolescent; Athlete; Elite