Athletes commonly use Cold Water Immersion (CWI) to expedite recovery and improve performance. Research on CWI is equivocal on whether it truly has a positive effect on recovery and a gap exists in the literature on the impact of CWI for recovery in swimmers. PURPOSE: To investigate the effects of using 12°C CWI on recovery, performance, and perceived muscle soreness in collegiate swimmers. METHODS: In this repeated measure, crossover design study, 21 division III swimmers from the PLU swim team (11 females and 10 males, age = 19 ± 1.4 years) completed two separate timed 100 yd sprints after an intense 2 hr swim workout. For each timed swim, half of the group had participated in a 10 min CWI the previous evening while the other group received no intervention. CWI and Control groups both participated in a double practice the previous day. The double practices consisted of a 1 hr swim with a 45 min lift in the morning followed by 2 hr swim in the afternoon. Following completion of practice, swimmers answered a series of questions on their rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and muscle soreness using a visual analog scale (VAS) felt throughout practice (Pre-practice, every 30-min during practice and post 100 yd performance test). Two weeks following the first data collection, CWI and Control groups switched with the same performance, RPE, and VAS measures recorded. Paired sample T-tests were conducted to assess the differences between CWI and Control. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between CWI and Control for 100 yd times, muscle soreness, practice RPE, and VAS (P > 0.05). Qualitative data showed 33.3% felt CWI helped their performance, 69.1% felt no difference, and 4.8% felt CWI hindered their performance. Although not significantly different, the 33.3% who felt an improved performance saw a 1.17 sec decrease (56.11 ± 3.4 s, vs. 56.28 ± 3.83 s; P = 0.59) with the use of CWI. CONCLUSION: There were no statistically significant results overall on improved recovery and performance. However, individuals who responded well to CWI had observable improvements in performance. Their average performance time decrease would equate to an approximate 2.0 yd advantage in the pool. Further research should be conducted assessing the placebo effects of CWI.

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