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Hydrotherapy in Athletics: Use HydroTherapy at Every Stage of Training to Optimize Performance

Hydrotherapy in Athletics: Use HydroTherapy at Every Stage of Training to Optimize Performance

Achieving optimal athletic performance takes more than just natural ability, mental focus, and resilience. It requires a 3-pronged approach to managing physical health that includes maximizing training, managing recovery, and mitigating injury. Did you know that hydrotherapy can be used for all three?

Whether your athletes are maintaining during the off-season, optimizing performance during the season, or recovering while they prepare for their seasons–hydrotherapy has a role both before and after activity. While most injury pre-dispositions are sport-related, not gender-related, we’ll review a few specific considerations for your male and female athletes. Let’s dive right in!

Stage 1: Off-Season Training
Preventing Injuries, Enhancing Endurance

Cold Immersion Baths and Hot Plunge Relaxation

Before athletes engage in off-season training a soak in a hot plunge can relax muscles, increase blood circulation, and improve flexibility. Combined with proper stretching and warm up exercises, this is a great way to prevent off-season injuries. 

Alternatively, if an athlete has already sustained an injury and is recovering in the off-season, hydrotherapy can help them condition in a safe environment. According to Penn Medicine, women are predisposition to lower extremity injuries because of their wider pelvis. This stress can increase stress particularly on the knee.1 

Men are more prone to hip and groin injuries, also related to the anatomy of the male pelvis.2 Ensure male athletes thoroughly stretch these injury-prone areas prior to training at every stage of athletic competition.

After training sessions cold immersion baths can jump start muscle recovery by:

  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Relieving sore muscles
  • Accelerating recovery

Cold water immersion results in blood vessel contraction which reduces swelling and helps repair damaged muscles.
The HydroWorx THRIVE provides the flexibility to administer both hot and cold therapy in a singlet. The THRIVE requires no construction or special water hook ups.

Stage 2: Pre-Season Preparation
The Versatility of Hydrotherapy Gets Turned Up to 11

Hot and Cold Plunge Recovery, Offloading Runs, Cardio Options

Before athletes begin exercise they benefit from the same pre-activity hot plunge therapy that they did during the off-season. The warm water therapy prepares their muscles for intense pre-season workouts, paying close attention to stretching injury-susceptible muscles for both your male and female athletes. 

The applications of hydrotherapy really shine for pre-season conditioning. Hydrotherapy offers a versatile cardio option as almost any exercise done on land can be adapted for water. Performing cardio workouts in water can alleviate strain on recovering muscles while providing a challenging cardio workout. These options can be especially beneficial for your female athletes to prevent knee and lower extremity pain. 

For your female athletes consider adapting exercises to improve motion and flexibility in the hip and glutes for the underwater treadmill. This environment can provide a safe way to strengthen that doesn’t put undue strain on lower extremities.

Hydrotherapy also provides an option for offloading runs to ensure athletes are getting load management injury prevention benefits–and workouts to give them a competitive edge.

After workouts athletes benefit from cold plunge recovery sessions that trigger an anti-inflammatory response that aids in recovery, and injury prevention.

The family of HydroWorx freestanding units offer a versatile option for cardio and rehabilitating athletes from injuries.

Stage 3: In-Season Recovery
Balancing High Performance and Active Recovery

Active Recovery Treadmill Runs and Hot-Cold Contrast Therapy

As the season reaches its peak, athletes must maintain a delicate balance between performance and recovery. Active recovery underwater treadmill runs can be especially beneficial to your athletes who may be prone to sustaining injury during the on-season when the combination of game play and workouts are intense. Leverage underwater treadmill runs to ease athletes into, and out of activity.

Your athletes can also benefit from hot-cold contrast therapy, which alternates between hot and cold baths or showers, reducing upper and lower limb inflammation and swelling and improving recovery.3 

Hot-cold contrast therapy is proven to:

  • Enhance Circulation: The hot water dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow, while cold water constricts vessels, helping flush out waste products and reducing inflammation.
  • Reduce Muscle Soreness: Contrast therapy can alleviate muscle soreness and stiffness, making it an effective recovery tool after intense training or competition.
  • Accelerate Recovery: By improving blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue, contrast therapy can expedite the body’s natural recovery processes, allowing athletes to return to training sooner.
  • Reduce Inflammation: The cold phase helps reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels, which can be especially beneficial for athletes dealing with acute injuries or chronic inflammation.
  • Relieve Pain: Athletes experiencing localized pain can find relief through the numbing effect of cold water, while the heat helps relax tense muscles.
  • Reduce Stress: The alternating sensations of hot and cold can relax the nervous system, helping athletes manage stress and anxiety associated with training and competition.

The family of HydroWorx pools are a great way to work with multiple athletes at the same time for group training sessions.

Keep Your Athletes Performing

Hydrotherapy is crucial at every stage of caring for your athletes. Whether you’re looking for a hot and cold plunge for pre- and post- workout hydrotherapy or an underwater treadmill for recovery, rehabilitation, and conditioning–HydroWorx can help. Contact us to learn more about how hydrotherapy can keep your athletes at their best.


1 ​​https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2015/may/are-women-athletes-more-susceptible-to-injury
2 https://www.gomberamd.com/blog/how-does-gender-effect-sports-injuries-22576.html#:~:text=A%20focus%20on%20weight%20lifting,ACL%20tears%20and%20tennis%20elbow
3 Shadgan, B., Pakravan, A. H., Hoens, A., & Reid, W. D. (2018). Contrast Baths, Intramuscular Hemodynamics, and Oxygenation as Monitored by Near-Infrared Spectroscopy. Journal of Athletic Training, 53(8), 782-787. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-127-17


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