Recovery: What the US offers Global Sports Science

June 30, 2014

bradyThere is a lot of attention in our industry right now for input from the sport scientists of Australia and Europe, bringing in the minds and bodies of these nations to help improve the processes of American organizations. The mixing of these cultures and ideas requires a definition of needs, a further explanation of what each party brings to the table.  Australian and European organization have a greater understanding and emphasis placed on the conceptual ideas of athletic performance.  In contrast, the US is much more application oriented.

One of the best examples of this "definition of needs" is measuring how an athlete recovers from the demands of their sport. There are 2 general measures we use to  judge recovery; a sense of well being and the efforts made to support such well being.

The RESTQ- How do You Feel?

One of the most common forms for measuring general stress is the Recovery-Stress Questionnaire, or RESTQ for short. It is a questionnaire reported to identify the extent to which athletes are physically or mentally stressed and their current capabilities towards recovery. The REST-Q was formulated on the idea that people will respond differently to physiological and psychological demands depending on how well-rested they are. For example, someone who has just returned from a vacation may perform more effectively than someone who has not had a vacation in a long time.

Developed in Germany, The RESTQ-Sport consists of 77 items (19 scales with four items each plus one warm-up item), which the participants answer retrospectively. A scale is used with values ranging from 0 (never) to 6 (always) indicating how often the respondent participated in various activities during the past 3 days/nights. High scores in the stress-associated activity scales reflect intense subjective stress, whereas high scores in the recovery-oriented scales indicate good recovery activities.

The RESTQ-Sport consists of seven general stress scales (General Stress, Emotional Stress, Social Stress, Conflicts/Pressure, Fatigue, Lack of Energy, Physical Complaints), five general recovery scales (Success, Social Recovery, Physical Recovery, General Well-being, Sleep Quality), three sport-specific stress scales (Disturbed Breaks, Emotional Exhaustion, Injury), and four sport-specific recovery scales (Being in Shape, Personal Accomplishment, Self-Efficacy, Self-Regulation).

The Regen Scale - What Are you Doing About it?

imageAn American approach to athlete recovery might reflect characteristics such as urgency that make our culture both innovative and risky. A 77 item test is less realistic in a culture where immediate gratification is omnipresent, particularly in professional and collegiate athletes. A (biased) alternative to the RESTQ is the Active Regen scale we use at Sparta (see app screen shot to the right). It is a simplified scale of sleep, soft tissue, and nutritional actions taken by the athlete over the previous 24 hours.

Like the RESTQ, the answers are subjective but also reliable and valid when looking into the stress and recovery of an athlete. The questions are shorter (8 versus 77) and more action based, relying on the effects of actions to affect the overall well being attributes more fully examined int he RESTQ.

You Choose

The answer to the question, Which is better? is not a simple one. Some of our partners in Australia use a combination of the 2 combining the benefits of comprehensiveness of the RESTQ and tactical focus of the Active Regen Scale. The decision can only be made by personnel who knows the culture of the organization because consistency reigns supreme. Judgement of the reporting system should be based solely on the athletes ability to report on these values as frequently as possible. That is the only way the information gathered will be reliable.

More importantly, the decision highlights how the US brings an important piece to sports science by instilling an exceptional tactical component that is interwoven into our DNA. Such urgency, complements the necessary conceptually oriented approach of Australia and Europe.

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