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Small Performance Effects of a Practical Mixed-Methods Cooling Strategy in Elite Team Sport Athletes

Abstract
Purpose: The ingestion of ice slurry and application of ice towels can elicit favorable physiological, perceptual, and performance benefits when used individually; however, the combined use and effectiveness of these practical cooling strategies have not been assessed using a sport-specific performance test, based on actual match demands, in an elite team sport context. Methods: Ten non-heat acclimated elite male rugby sevens athletes undertook two cycling heat response tests (HRT) designed to be specific to the demands of rugby sevens in hot conditions (35°C, 80% rH). In a crossover design, the HRTs were conducted with (COOLING) and without (HOT) the combined use of internal (ice slushy ingestion) and external (application of ice towels to the head, neck, and face) pre- and per-cooling strategies. Physiological, perceptual, and performance variables were monitored throughout each HRT. Results: COOLING resulted in reductions in mean tympanic temperature (-0.4 ± 0.2°C; d = 1.18); mean heart rate (-5 ± 8 bpm; d = 0.53); thermal discomfort (-0.5 ± 0.9 AU; d = 0.48); and thirst sensation (-1.0 ± 1.1 AU; d = 0.61) during the HRT. COOLING also resulted in a small increase in 4-min time trial power output (by 7 ± 33 W, ~3%; d = 0.35) compared to HOT. Discussion: A combination of internal and external pre- and per-cooling strategies can result in a range of small physiological, perceptual, and performance benefits during a rugby sevens specific HRT, compared to undertaking no cooling. Practitioners should include such strategies when performing in hot conditions.
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Journal Article
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Date
2022-09-27
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This is an author’s accepted version of an article published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. © 2023 Informa UK Limited