The effects of different post-exercise recovery techniques on the subscales of the Recovery-Stress Questionnaire in university-level rugby players
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The physiological and psychological demands of rugby highlight the need for recovery strategies in the training programs of rugby players. Currently, passive recovery (PAR), cold water immersion (CWI) and contrast water therapy (CWT) seem to be the most popular recovery techniques used by athletes. Despite a growing interest in and benefits of these techniques, most studies only focus on the physiological benefits and often ignore the psychological benefits of these techniques. The Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ-Sport) is an instrument that allows researchers to assess potentially stressful and restful events, as well as the subjective consequences of these events on both the physiological and psychological responses of athletes. However, up until now no researchers have investigated these responses by making use of the RESTQ-Sport. Consequently, the objectives of this study were firstly to determine differences in the 48-hour post-recovery effects between PAR and CWI on the subscales (General Stress, General Recovery, Sport-Specific Stress and Sport-Specific Recovery) of the RESTQ-Sport in university-level rugby players, and secondly to determine differences in the 48-hour post-recovery effects between PAR and CWT on the subscales of the RESTQ-Sport in university-level rugby players. Twenty-three u/21 university-level rugby players (age: 20.1 ± 0.4 years) voluntarily participated in this study. Players were randomly divided into a control (PAR) and an experimental group (CWI or CWT). All players were otherwise subjected to exactly the same testing procedures. Players completed the demographic and general information questionnaire as well as the RESTQ-Sport in the morning followed by baseline measurements after which players were allowed to eat breakfast. They again reported to the laboratory in groups of four players each after breakfast. Players were then subjected to a high-intensity fitness session of 15 minutes (intervention). Exactly three minutes after the fitness session ended, blood lactate measurements were taken, followed by execution of a 20 minute recovery session. For the purpose of the first objective the experimental group completed 20 minutes of CWI, whereas the control group recovered passively for the same time period. For the purpose of the second objective, the experimental group completed 20 minutes of CWT, whereas the control group recovered passively for the same time period. The RESTQ-Sport was filled in again on the morning of the third day (post-recovery), 48 hours after the first completion of the RESTQ-Sport. The analyses of intra- and inter-group differences for players who were subjected to PAR or CWI revealed statistically (p < 0.05) and practically significant (d ~ 0.5) decreases in conflicts/pressure and success from pre-fitness to post-PAR time periods. Being in shape and self-regulation were the only sport-specific stress and recovery activity-related subscales that indicated statistically (p < 0.05) and practically significant (d ~ 0.5) decreases over the same time period. Social recovery, general well-being, injury, self-efficacy, sport-specific stress and recovery revealed practically significant decreases (d ≥ 0.3), while, general stress and physical recovery revealed practically significant (d ≥ 0.3) increases. The experimental group experienced statistically (p < 0.05) and practically significant (d ~ 0.5) decreases from pre-fitness to post-recovery for success, general, social and physical recovery, whereas injury, being in shape, self-efficacy, self-regulation, sport-specific stress and recovery all revealed statistically (p < 0.05) and large practically significant (d ~ 0.5) decreases. General stress, social stress, disturbed breaks and personal accomplishment all showed practically significant (d ~ 0.3) decreases over the same time period. Despite these pre-fitness to post-recovery changes, the normal and Quade's ranks analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed that only sport-specific recovery and self-efficacy showed a more pronounced significant decrease (p < 0.05) in the CWI- compared to the PAR-group. Results with regard to intra- and inter-group differences for players who were subjected to PAR or CWT revealed the following: For PAR social stress, physical complaints, disturbed breaks and being in shape were the only RESTQ-Sport subscales that experienced statistically (p < 0.05) and medium practically significant (d ≥ 0.3) decreases from pre-fitness to post-recovery. General and sport-specific recovery as well as self-efficacy (d ~ 0.3) all showed practically significant decreases over the same time period. The lack of energy subscale showed a statistically (p < 0.05) and large practically significant (d ~ 0.5) increase from pre-fitness to post-recovery. For the experimental group, a statistically (p < 0.05) and medium practically significant (d ~ 0.3) increase was observed for emotional stress, whereas self-efficacy revealed a statistically (p < 0.05) and medium practically significant (d ~ 0.4) increase from pre-fitness to post-recovery time periods. Physical complaints and success both revealed practically significant (d ~ 0.3) decreases over the same time period. Despite all these intra-group changes, the normal ANCOVA revealed that self-efficacy as well as sport-specific stress and recovery were significantly (p < 0.05) more positively affected by CWT compared to PAR whereas PAR was more effective in causing positive changes in emotional stress and success compared to CWT over the 48-hour period. Therefore, study results suggest that CWI and CWT, when compared to PAR, were more beneficial in enhancing 48-h RESTQ-Sport responses in a group of rugby players. Despite this conclusion, only a minority of RESTQ-Sport subscales revealed significant better recovery responses in CWI- and CWT- compared to PAR-groups. These results are contrary to previous findings which showed that CWI and CWT led to much better recovery responses than PAR. Nevertheless, it must be realised that even subtle, individual, post-recovery changes in RESTQ-Sport subscales after high-intensity exercise may have a positive impact on a player’s performances. However, a more in-depth evaluation of players’ psychological states is required to determine which recovery techniques are the most beneficial for individual player’s recovery.
- Health Sciences 
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