Bio-medical methods: the importance of recovery in sports

According to Cuzzolin (2005),  most of the elite basketball teams have anually 72 official matches, 400 trainings, 900 kilometers of running, 280 000 kg lifted in the gym, 50 hours per aircraft, 100 hours spent on the bus and 35 in hotels. Naturally such records imply great working loads, which result in fatique and create the necessity for recovery periods. With the recovery process athletes can regenerate their working capacity to the level of capacity before the appearance of fatigue, or even above the previous level, which can be further explained through supercompensation phenomenon. In sports, as well as in normal life of an individual, phases of fatigue and recovery alternate. Recovery is used to restore the ability of an individual in order to participate in everyday activities that one’s life requires. In the case of sports, recovery is usually needed because of the high amount of effort made in the training process. Trost et al. (2005)* devided methods of recovery into four major groups: training, bio-medical, primary and psychological methods. In line with previous articles published by Aidan Jones and benefits of massage, the aim of this article is to give broader insight in bio- medical recovery methods, which can be physical, techical and pharmacological, that are (must be) used in everyday life of athletes.


Medical experts, back in ancient times, used different physical methods to remove various problems, not only related to the locomotor system but related to the entire body. Today, the physical methods are not only applied in rehabilitative purposes, but they serve their purpose also among healthy population, especially the population of athletes. Naturally, the straightforward task of physical methods is to accelerate the time needed for recovery and establish a state of athletes homeostasis as soon as possible. There is a large number of physical resources (such as light therapy, laser therapies, natural factors, electromagnetherapies, biofeedback, etc.), however the most important and most used resources in sports are the following: massage, thermotherapy, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, and hypobaric therapy (Trost et al., 2005)*.

Massage, perhaps the most common bio-medical method of recovery, has its application before, during and after exercise. The primary task of massage is warming (caused by friction) some muscle regions which may as a result improve blood flow (vasodilitation) and, moreover, prevent injury. Massage after the activity speeds up the recovery process (improvement in blood circulation removes the metabolites from the muscle tissue and lactic acid in the blood). Massage is a fairly simple method because of its accessibility and good efficiency, thus it has an important place in the recovery process.

Thermotherapy is used after a sports activity (6 – 8 hours) with the aim of increasing local and general blood circulation level. This method increases relaxation in the muscle-chord (tendon)system.

Cryotherapy is a method for reducing pain in muscles and tendons and eliminating severe cramps caused by physical efforts. Physiological response to chilling treatment resulted in vasoconstriction which prevents the swelling (edema), and muscle spasms.

Hydrotherapy is a popular method of physical recovery because of its accessibility (especially baths). The most commonly used methods are hot baths, cold baths, contrast baths, Scottish shower, hydro massage, sauna and wet compresses. The common role of these methods is influencing the physiological processes within the organism through changes of temperature in the water .

Hypobaric therapy (according to Szekely and Šolc-Pervan, 2003)** operates through a combination of atmospheric pressure and vacuum for maximum drainage of lymph and venous vessels and intercellular space while expanding the network of arterial and capillary levels. It can also accelerate transfer of venous and arterial blood.


The approach of studying the musculoskeletal system at the level of stimuli and muscle cells activation influenced development of technological knowledge in the field of medicine. In one hand, muscle strength can be increased by applying spesific frequencies of electrical stimulation. However in the field of rehabilitation, we use lower frequencies (50 Hz) of electrical stimulation, which allows to achieve greater arterial blood supply,  resulting to a faster metabolism and decreased muscle pain. For example, when athletes have inflammation of tendons and ligament,  the use of ultrasonic methods (800 – 1000 KHz), can be used in order to increase muscle temperature and at the same time to reduce cramping incidents and any kind of body pain.


Modern sport requires great efforts in training, which often exceeds the capabilities of individual athletes. Moreover, the rhythm of competitive activity implies greater psychological and physiological involvement than training itself. Here is when pharmacological supplements can be of use. The pharmacological supplements include variety of energy and building ingredients, as well as catalysts and regulators of metabolism. Gambetta (1989) indicates that in order to realistically evaluate a sports program we must immediately take away 20% of the content and 30-35% of the intensity of those programs which have not included pharmacological supplements. For example, athletes often drink protein shakes after they practice in the gym. Main benefit is good muscle repair and muscle growth. Creatin monohydrate is common supplement used to get more energy and increase power. Therefore, it is easy to conclude the importance of pharmacological supplements in the recovery and the development of an athlete’s body. However, it is important to mention that the boundaries between permissible and prohibited substances should be clearly set.

After presenting biomedical recovery methods we can see that it has really found its multiple important applications in the strength&conditioning of athletes. Competitive success and realization of optimal form of the major sporting events is not possible without quality regeneration of  the body and a proper recovery. Also, it is stated that equal attention must be given to  both “on and off the court“ recovery. Moreover, when choosing a method of recovery the athletes’ individual needs and desires for a certain method must be always taken into account. Naturally, it is recommended to consult an expert profesional (sport trainer, doctor, physiotherapist) before using any recovery method in order to be fully aware of any kind of contraindications. Hence, feedback, advices and discussion are the best methods that experts must use in order to lead the recovery to a success procedure.

Training + adequate recovery = Optimal performance

References (for more details please ask the author of the article)

*Physical Conditioning Conference 2005, Articles collection, Faculty of Kinesiology, Zagreb, Croatia”

**Physical Conditioning Conference 2003, Articles collection, Faculty of Kinesiology, Zagreb, Croatia”

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2 Responses to Bio-medical methods: the importance of recovery in sports

  1. Pingback: OVERTRAINING IN SPORTS: 8 TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID IT | all about performance

  2. Pingback: 5 THINGS EVERY PRO ATHLETE SHOULD MASTER | all about performance

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