Hydrotherapies For Recovery: From Ancient Greece To Athens 2004

Por: Angela Calder.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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From Homer’s Iliad to the Athens Olympics in 2004, the systematic training and preparation of athletes has included
recovery strategies as an aid to performance. Some of the most prominent recovery strategies used by ancient Greek
and Roman athletes, and militia involved hydrotherapy. The hydrotherapies employed ranged from baths, spas,
waterfalls, and plunge pools, to post exercise swims in the local river or sea. The underlying mechanisms of
hydrotherapy techniques are not well understood despite increased use by 21st century athletes and coaches who still
rely on 2000 year old protocols.

Information about current practices and beliefs involving the use of hydrotherapies for performance was collated from a
range of scientific and anecdotal sources. These including publications listed in Medline, and Sport Discus, some
unpublished research sources [1], and from recovery projects undertaken by Australian high performance coaches as
part of their post-graduate coaching qualifications over the last 14 years.

Results indicate that there is scientific support for increased circulation following contrast immersion [1] and there is a
marked recovery in peripheral neural fatigue following underwater massaging / spa after plyometric training [2].
Supportive data from in-house applied research are numerous, but rarely published [3]. Anecdotal accounts support the
benefits of hydrotherapy but recommend a range of different strategies for specific training fatigue [4].

Discussion / Conclusions
There is little published scientific data to explain the mechanisms to substantiate the perceived benefits of
hydrotherapies, despite increasing anecdotal support from athletes and coaches. The unwillingness of the professional
sports to publish their in-house research is a reflection of their reluctance to reveal beneficial information to their
opponents. Sport scientists, can alleviate the problem by conducting independent research so that athletes and coaches
can understand the physiological, neurological, and psychological mechanisms involved so they can be selective and
use specific techniques more effectively. Can 21st century scientists explain why 2000 year old practices work?

[1] Sanders, J. (1996), Effect of contrast-temperature immersion on recovery from short-duration intense exercise,
unpublished honours thesis, University of Canberra.
[2] Viitasalo, J.T., et al. (1995). Euro. J. of Appl. Physiol, 71, 431-428.
[3] Flanagan, T, et al. (2000) Success in Sport and Life, Victorian Institute of Sport.
[4] Calder, A. (2004) Faster, Higher, Stronger, 22, 12-15.

NOTA: O texto com a iconografia está no anexo.

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