To enhance recovery from sport, cold water immersion (CWI) and contrast water therapy (CWT) have become common practice within high level team sport. Initially, athletes relied solely upon anecdotal support. As there has been an increase in the volume of research into recovery including a number of general reviews, an opportunity existed to narrow the focus specifically examining the use of hydrotherapy for recovery in team sport. A Boolean logic [AND] keyword search of databases was conducted: SPORTDiscus; AMED; CINAHL; MEDLINE. Data was extracted and the standardised mean differences were calculated with 95% CI. The analysis of pooled data was conducted using a random-effect model, with Heterogeneity assessed using I2. Twenty three peer reviewed papers (n=606) met the criteria. Meta-analyses results indicated CWI was beneficial for recovery at 24h (CMJ: p= 0.05, CI -0.004 to 0.578; All-out sprint: p=0.02, -0.056 to 0.801) following team sport. CWI was beneficial for recovery at 72h (fatigue: p=0.03, CI 0.061 to 1.418) and CWT was beneficial for recovery at 48h (fatigue: p=0.04, CI 0.013 to 0.942) following team sport. CWI was beneficial for neuromuscular recovery 24h following team sport, whereas CWT was not beneficial for recovery following team sport. In addition, when evaluating accumulated sprinting, CWI was not beneficial for recovery following team sports.
In evaluating subjective measures, both CWI (72h) and CWT (24h) were beneficial for recovery of perceptions of fatigue, following team sport. However neither CWI nor CWT was beneficial for recovery, of perceptions of muscle soreness, following team sport.