Postexercise cold water immersion has been advocated to athletes as a means of accelerating recovery and improving performance. Given the effects of cold water immersion on blood flow, evaluating in vivo changes in tissue oxygenation during cold water immersion may help further our understanding of this recovery modality. This study aimed to investigate the effects of cold water immersion on muscle oxygenation and performance during repeated bouts of fatiguing exercise in a group of healthy young adults. Twenty healthy subjects performed 2 fatiguing bouts of maximal dynamic knee extension and flexion contractions both concentrically on an isokinetic dynamometer with a 10-min recovery period in between. Subjects were randomly assigned to either a cold water immersion (treatment) or passive recovery (control) group. Changes in muscle oxygenation were monitored continuously using near-infrared spectroscopy. Muscle performance was measured with isokinetic dynamometry during each fatiguing bout. Skin temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle soreness ratings were also assessed. Repeated measures ANOVA analysis was used to evaluate treatment effects. The treatment group had a significantly lower mean heart rate and lower skin temperature compared to the control group (P<0.05). Cold water immersion attenuated a reduction in tissue oxygenation in the second fatiguing bout by 4% when compared with control. Muscle soreness was rated lower 1 day post-testing (P<0.05). However, cold water immersion had no significant effect on muscle performance in subsequent exercise. As the results show that cold water immersion attenuated decreased tissue oxygenation in subsequent exercise performance, the metabolic response to exercise after cold water immersion is worthy of further exploration.
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