Monday, February 20, 2012

Is football performance affected immediately following local cooling?

Local cooling by application of ice or pre-exercise lower body cooling is a common practice in competitive football ( Is performance affected by the use of these methods? How safe is it for the player when returning to the pitch?
A nice review article by Bleakly and colleagues (2012) has summarized the research findings in this area. Here are the main conclusions:
  • The majority of studies show a reduction in muscle strength immediately following cooling.
  • There is evidence than cooling negatively affects running speed, power and agility. However, this decline was alleviated with a short warm up.
  • Effect of cooling on endurance is not clear with some studies showing negative and some others positive effects. Those with positive effects asked subjects to exercise in the heat immediately after pre-cooling.

Points to consider when interpreting these findings
  • Cooling was mainly achieved with >20min of cold water immersion.
  • Performance remained below baseline for about 15min following cooling.
  • Effect of cooling on performance is affected by several factors such as limb adiposity.
  • There is very limited, if any, information in the literature on the effect of cooling on football skill performance.

For more reading
Bleakley et al. (2012). Should athletes return to sport after applying ice? Sports Medicine 42: 69-87.


IcySolutions BV said...

Thank you Dr. Nassis for this post. We came across it as well and there was also an earlier study (Stephen Patterson, JSSM 2008 7 (387-394), Effects of Cold Whirlpool on Power, Agility, and Range of Motion) suggesting that the effects of cold are negative right after. A critical point is more concerning the practicality of such a study, where most athletes cool down after the training or game, however little workout is done afterwards. Simply because the cooling down is usually at the end of the session, but also there is a rest time before the second activity. It is thus rarely applied (half time cooling for example).

Dr Chris Tyler said...

This is an area of great interest to me and one that I think still has many gaps to fill... to that effect I am currently writing a review regarding practical cooling and one of my MSc students will be presenting some football-skill specific half-time data at the ECSS conference this summer. I have also spent the afternoon writing a practical pre-cooling grant (with specific focus on football and football skill performance) so hopefully some of those gaps can be filled sooner rather than later!