Effect of post-match cold-water immersion on subsequent match

Journal of Sports Sciences
ISSN: 0264-0414 (Print) 1466-447X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjsp20
Effect of post-match cold-water immersion on
subsequent match running performance in junior
soccer players during tournament play
Greg J. Rowsell , Aaron J. Coutts , Peter Reaburn & Stephen Hill-Haas
To cite this article: Greg J. Rowsell , Aaron J. Coutts , Peter Reaburn & Stephen Hill-Haas
(2011) Effect of post-match cold-water immersion on subsequent match running performance
in junior soccer players during tournament play, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29:1, 1-6, DOI:
10.1080/02640414.2010.512640
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2010.512640
Published online: 11 Nov 2010.
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Date: 14 August 2017, At: 01:34
Journal of Sports Sciences, January 1st 2011; 29(1): 1–6
Effect of post-match cold-water immersion on subsequent match
running performance in junior soccer players during tournament play
GREG J. ROWSELL1, AARON J. COUTTS2, PETER REABURN3, & STEPHEN HILL-HAAS4
South Australian Sports Institute, Kidman Park, SA, Australia, 2School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, Sydney University of
Technology, Lindfield, NSW, Australia, 3Department of Health and Human Performance, Central Queensland University,
Rockhampton, QLD, Australia, and 4School of Human Movement and Exercise Science, The University of Western Australia,
Perth, WA, Australia
Downloaded by [Copenhagen University Library] at 01:34 14 August 2017
1
(Accepted 29 July 2010)
Abstract
In this study, we investigated the effects of two hydrotherapy interventions on match running performance and perceptual
measures of fatigue and recovery during a 4-day soccer tournament. Twenty male junior soccer players were assigned to one
of two treatment groups and undertook either cold-water immersion (5 6 1 min at 108C) or thermoneutral water immersion
(5 6 1 min at 348C) after each match. High-intensity running distance (415 km h71) and total distance covered, time
spent in low (580% maximum heart rate), moderate (80–90% maximum heart rate), and high (490% maximum heart rate)
heart rate zones, and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded for each match. Perceptions of general fatigue and leg
soreness were recorded approximately 22 h after each match. There were decreases in both groups across the 4-day
tournament for high-intensity running distance (P ¼ 0.006, Cohen’s d ¼ 0.63), total distance run (P 5 0.001, d ¼ 0.90), time
in high heart rate zone (P ¼ 0.003, d ¼ 0.90), and match RPE (P ¼ 0.012, d ¼ 0.52). Cold-water immersion was more
effective than thermoneutral immersion for reducing the perception of leg soreness (P ¼ 0.004, d ¼ –0.92) and general fatigue
(P ¼ 0.007, d ¼ –0.91), ameliorating the decrement in total distance run (P ¼ 0.001, d ¼ 0.55), and maintaining time in the
moderate heart rate zone (P ¼ 0.01, d ¼ 1.06). In conclusion, cold-water immersion mediates the perceptions of fatigue and
recovery and enhances the restoration of some match-related performance measures during a 4-day tournament.
Keywords: Cold-water immersion, recovery, high-intensity running, soccer performance
Introduction
National and international tournament schedules
frequently require teams to play matches on consecutive days (Ronglan, Raastad, & Borgesen, 2006;
Spencer et al., 2005). These formats allow limited
time for recovery between matches and subsequent
physical performance could be impaired as fatigue
accumulates over a tournament (Montgomery et al.,
2008b; Rowsell, Coutts, Reaburn, & Hill-Haas,
2009). Improving recovery and reducing residual
fatigue between matches could therefore be
beneficial for maintaining performance across a
tournament.
Impaired physical test performances have been
reported in team sport athletes during multi-day
tournaments (Montgomery et al., 2008b; Ronglan
et al., 2006; Rowsell et al., 2009). Internationalstandard female handball players exhibited decrements in 20-m sprint time and countermovement
jump height over a 3-day international handball
tournament (Ronglan et al., 2006), while the sprint
and vertical jump performance of male basketball
players was reduced during a 3-day tournament
(Montgomery et al., 2008b). In addition, elite field
hockey players performed fewer repeated-sprint
bouts in consecutive matches during a 4-day
tournament (Spencer et al., 2005).
Cold-water immersion is a popular recovery
strategy for many athletes but there is limited
scientific research of the effectiveness of this method
in sport-specific settings. Previous research suggests
that cold-water immersion reduces the perception of
fatigue and recovery during a 4-day soccer tournament (Rowsell et al., 2009), improves recovery from
consecutive days of high-intensity cycling (Vaile,
Halson, Gill, & Dawson, 2008), and prevents
decreases in 20-m sprint test and line-drill performance during a 3-day basketball competition
(Montgomery et al., 2008b). However, no previous
Correspondence: G. J. Rowsell, South Australian Sports Institute, 27 Valetta Road, Kidman Park, SA 5026, Australia. E-mail: rowsell4@iinet.net.au
ISSN 0264-0414 print/ISSN 1466-447X online Ó 2011 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2010.512640
2
G. J. Rowsell et al.
Downloaded by [Copenhagen University Library] at 01:34 14 August 2017
research has examined the impact of cold-water
immersion on the recovery of match performance
measures during a tournament.
The aims of this study were to investigate the
effectiveness of post-match cold-water immersion on
match running performance, physiological measures,
and perceptions of fatigue and recovery over a 4-day
soccer tournament. It was hypothesized that postmatch cold-water immersion would be more effective than thermoneutral immersion for reducing
decrements in soccer match running performance
and enhancing subjective ratings of fatigue and
recovery.
Methods
Participants
Twenty junior male soccer players from the South
Australian Sports Institute elite development squad
participated in the study. All participants were field
players who had previously competed for the State
team that won the National Junior Championship
before the study commenced, and six of the players
were in the national 17 and under squad. Seven of
the original 20 participants sustained soft tissue
injuries during the tournament and their data were
not analysed. The physical characteristics of the 13
participants who completed all matches were as
follows (mean + s): age 15.9 + 0.6 years, body mass
71.3 + 5.4 kg, sum of 7 skinfolds (triceps, biceps,
subscapular, front thigh, medial calf, abdominal, and
supraspinale) 63.3 + 19.7 mm.
The study was conducted after 12 weeks of preseason training, which comprised 4–5 team practices
(90–120 min each) and 1–2 strength training sessions (45–60 min each) for a duration of approximately 9–12 h per week. Participants were screened
for nutritional supplements and anti-inflammatory
medications and were free from injury and illness at
the start of the study.
All participants and their parents/guardians were
provided with written and verbal information on the
study requirements and completed an informed
consent document. The Australian Institute of Sport
Ethics Committee and the Central Queensland
University Human Research Ethics Committee
approved the study.
vertical jump, and Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test
level 1. Players were matched for playing position
and initial fitness level and assigned to one of two
treatment groups:
1.
2.
Cold water immersion (n ¼ 10). After the standard post-match recovery, participants in the
cold-water group immersed their entire body to
the mesosternale level for 5 6 1-min intervals
at 108C. Players sat passively in ambient air
(*248C) for 1 min between immersions.
Thermoneutral water immersion (n ¼ 10). After
the standard post-match recovery, participants
immersed their entire body to the mesosternale
level for 5 6 1-min intervals at 348C. Players
sat passively in ambient air (*248C) for 1 min
between immersions.
Nutritional control
Nutritional intake was controlled to ensure the
amount and timing of carbohydrate was replicated
on each day of the study. Participants followed a
meal and snack plan, designed to provide a daily
carbohydrate intake of 8 g kg71 for 3 days before
and on each day of the tournament. Participants
consumed 1 litre of carbohydrate-electrolyte drink
(Gatorade1, Chicago, IL) during each match and a
post-match snack (200 ml of Sustagen1 Sport) that
provided approximately 21 g of protein and 48 g of
carbohydrate. Fluid balance was controlled through
the tournament by recording body mass before and
after matches. Fluid losses were restored.
Perceptual measures of recovery
Participants recorded their perception of leg soreness
and general fatigue approximately 22 h after each
match (days 2–5) on a scale of 1–10 (Halson et al.,
2008). Approximately 10 min after each match and
before immersion, participants rated their perceived
exertion of that match (Impellizzeri, Rampinini,
Coutts, Sassi, & Marcora, 2004). After the tournament, participants were asked the extent to which
they felt they had received benefit from the treatment
undertaken and specifically if they thought it was
effective for maintaining their match performance
over the tournament.
Study design
Tournament play
The study was designed to simulate the Australian
National Junior Soccer Championship tournament
format where teams usually play one full match each
day for four to five consecutive days. In the week
before the tournament, all participating players
completed the following tests: 20-m maximal sprint,
Each participant was fitted with a GPS tracking unit,
with a 1-Hz sampling rate (GPSports Systems1,
Canberra, ACT, Australia), and a Polar Team heart
rate monitor (Polar Electro Oy1, Kempele, Finland)
before each match. The accuracy and reliability of
GPS devices has been established for most team
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Effect of cold-water immersion on match running
sport performance measures but it is possible that
some important data could be missed when sampling
at 1 Hz (Coutts & Duffield, 2010; Edgecomb &
Norton, 2006). The reliability of the SPI-10 GPS
device for measuring team sport-specific movement
characteristics has previously been reported, with the
typical error, expressed as a coefficient of variation
(CV), being 3.6% for total distance and 11.2% for
high-intensity running (414.4 km h71) (Coutts &
Duffield, 2010).
Matches were played on a full-sized grass pitch
under the control of a FIFA-accredited referee. The
total playing time for each match was 90 min but
because of environmental conditions (368C, 25%
relative humidity), the second match was played in
four quarters to reduce the risk of heat injury to
participants. The data from this match were not used
in the final analyses. Participants completed their
standard pre-match warm-up routine before each
match under the direction of the coach.
The team coaches were asked to implement the
same tactical strategy for each of the four matches
and to use players in the same position and role each
match to limit the potential influence of match-play
variables (Rampinini, Coutts, Castagna, Sassi, &
Impellizzeri, 2007). Participants who sustained
minor soft tissue injuries during match-play were
substituted and their data were not used in the final
analyses.
Match performance analysis
Polar Precision Performance software (version 4.0)
(Polar Electro Oy1, Kempele, Finland) was used to
analyse the match heart rate data. Time spent in low
(580% maximum heart rate), moderate (80–90%
maximum heart rate), and high (490% maximum
heart rate) heart rate zones were established for each
participant using the peak heart rate previously
obtained during match-play. GPSport proprietary
software (GPSports Systems1, Canberra, ACT,
Australia) was used to calculate high-intensity running distance (running speed 4 15 km h71) and
the total distance run.
3
considered to represent small, medium, and large
differences, respectively (Cohen, 1988). Data are
presented as means + standard deviations (s).
Results
Participants
The data of 13 participants who completed all four
matches (cold-water immersion ¼ 6, thermoneutral
immersion ¼ 7) were used to examine the effectiveness of the recovery strategies. These participants
accumulated 360 min of playing time (4 6 90-min
matches) during the tournament. The body mass
and sum of seven skinfolds for these participants did
not change over the tournament (Table I). The pretournament test results for all participating players
are shown in Table II.
Effectiveness of recovery strategies
Match running. The match running performances are
shown in Table III. There were no group 6 time
interactions for high-intensity running distance during the tournament (P ¼ 0.21). However, there was a
main effect for time, with both treatment groups
performing less high-intensity running (running
speed 415 km h71) in match 4 than match 1
(P ¼ 0.006, d ¼ 0.63) and there was no apparent
effect for cold-water immersion (P ¼ 0.12, d ¼ 0.18).
There was a group 6 time interaction for total
distance travelled (P ¼ 0.02). There was also a main
effect for total distance covered (P 5 0.001), with
less distance being travelled in matches 3 (d ¼ 0.88)
Table I. Pre- and post-tournament anthropometric data
(mean + s).
Pre-tournament Post-tournament
Cold-water immersion group (n ¼ 6)
Body mass (kg)
70.9 + 5.2
Sum of seven skinfolds (mm) 61.6 + 17.8
71.2 + 5.3
62.1 + 18.2
Thermoneutral immersion group (n ¼ 7)
Body mass (kg)
71.7 + 6.1
Sum of seven skinfolds (mm) 64.9 + 20.1
71.5 + 6.2
65.4 + 20.3
Statistical analyses
A two-way mixed analysis of covariance (ANCOVA)
was used for all outcome measures to adjust for the
different starting points of each group in the first
match. Statistical significance was set at P ¼ 0.05 and
Scheffé’s post hoc test was applied to identify the
source of the differences. Statistical analyses were
performed using the STATISTICA1 software package (version 6.0, Statsoft, Tulsa, OK). Effect sizes
(Cohen’s d) were determined for post hoc comparisons. Effect sizes of 0.2, 0.5, and 40.8 were
Table II. Pre-tournament physical test results (mean + s).
20-m sprint (s)
Vertical jump (cm)
Yo-Yo intermittent
recovery test level 1 (m)
Cold-water
immersion
group (n ¼ 6)
Thermoneutral
immersion
group (n ¼ 7)
3.22 + 0.08
53 + 8
2220 + 306
3.21 + 0.05
53 + 6
2225 + 386
4
G. J. Rowsell et al.
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and 4 (d ¼ 0.90) than in match 1. The main effect of
treatment (P ¼ 0.001) showed that, compared with
thermoneutral immersion, cold-water immersion
reduced the decrement in total running distance
from match 1 to matches 3 (d ¼ 0.40) and 4
(d ¼ 0.55).
recovery and was perceived to be beneficial for
maintaining physical performance in subsequent
matches. In contrast, only one of the seven players
in the thermoneutral immersion group believed that
the treatment was beneficial.
Discussion
Match heart rate. Match heart rate measures are
shown in Table IV. There were no group 6 time
interactions for match heart rate measures. However,
there was a main effect for time, with both treatment
groups spending less time in the high (490%
maximum heart rate, P ¼ 0.003) and more time in
the low (580% maximum heart rate, P ¼ 0.004)
heart rate zone in matches 3 (high: d ¼ 71.12; low:
d ¼ 1.11) and 4 (high: d ¼ 71.27; low: d ¼ 1.06).
The cold-water immersion group spent more time in
the moderate (80–90% maximum heart rate,
P ¼ 0.01) and less time in the low (580% maximum
heart rate, P 5 0.001) heart rate zone in matches 3
(moderate: d ¼ 0.87; low: d ¼ 71.11) and 4 (moderate: d ¼ 1.06; low: d ¼ 71.02) than the thermoneutral immersion group.
The main findings of the present study are as follows:
(1) repeated match-play in a tournament led to
decrements in several match-performance variables
(total distance and high-intensity running distance)
and subjective ratings of fatigue and recovery; and
(2) post-match cold-water immersion was better than
thermoneutral water immersion for attenuating some
of these decrements.
Match running performance
The decrements in high-intensity running and total
match running distance observed over the 4-day
tournament support previous research in team-sport
athletes (Spencer et al., 2005), and are most likely of
the result of increased fatigue. High-intensity running
performance declined over consecutive matches in the
present study, which is in line with the decrement in
repeat-effort running performance observed in elitestandard hockey players during a 4-day tournament
(Spencer et al., 2005). In contrast with previous
studies (Montgomery et al., 2008b; Vaile et al., 2008),
however, post-exercise cold-water immersion in the
current investigation did not improve subsequent
exercise performance. Possible explanations for the
differences between the present and previous studies
Perceptual measures. Subjective ratings of leg soreness
and general fatigue tended to increase over the
tournament, while the rating of perceived exertion of
the matches decreased P ¼ 0.012, d ¼ 0.44). Coldwater immersion mediated the perception of fatigue/
recovery, with the cold-water group reporting lower
ratings of leg soreness (P ¼ 0.004, d ¼ 70.92) and
general fatigue (P ¼ 0.007, d ¼ 70.91). All six
participants in the cold-water immersion group
reported that cold-water immersion improved their
Table III. The effect of different recovery interventions on match running performance variables during the tournament (mean + s).
Match 1
HIR distance (m)
Total distance (m)
Match 3
Match 4
CWI
TNI
CWI
TNI
CWI
TNI
Time
P-value
Condition
P-value
1170 + 463
9950 + 478
1192 + 317
9102 + 620
1042 + 462
9370 + 630b
1045 + 183
8331 + 370b,c
1080 + 332a
9455 + 334b
872 + 182a
8227 + 339b,c
0.006
50.001
0.12
0.001
a
Match 4 5match 1 (P 5 0.05), bmatch 3 and 4 5match 1 (P 5 0.05), cTNI 5CWI in match 3 and 4 (P 5 0.05). HIR ¼ high-intensity
running (running speed 415 km h71), CWI ¼ cold-water immersion, TNI ¼ thermoneutral water immersion.
Table IV. The effect of different recovery interventions on match heart rate intensity measures expressed in relation to maximum heart rate
(HRmax) during the tournament (mean + s).
Match 1
CWI
1047 + 1104
580% HRmax (s)
80–90% HRmax (s)
2674 + 614
90–100% HRmax (s) 1679 + 1151
Match 3
TNI
CWI
2179 + 973
2781 + 1159
440 + 314
2239 + 1445a,b
2684 + 1146c
477 + 376d
Match 4
TNI
CWI
TNI
4057 + 557a 2295 + 1731a,b 4355 + 471a
1318 + 537 2635 + 1283c
1043 + 472
25 + 47d
470 + 803d
2 + 6d
Time Condition
P-value
P-value
0.004
0.55
0.003
50.001
0.01
0.75
a
Match 3 and 4 4 match 1 (P 5 0.05), bCWI 5TNI (P 5 0.05), cCWI 4 TNI (P 5 0.05), dmatch 3 and 4 5match 1 (P 5 0.05).
CWI ¼ cold-water immersion, TNI ¼ thermoneutral water immersion.
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Effect of cold-water immersion on match running
are the duration and/or nature of the exercise tasks
assessed. Indeed, the mean match time of 23:13 min:s
(+ 4:13) per day reported by Montgomery et al.
(2008b) during a 3-day basketball tournament is
substantially less than the daily 90 min of soccer
match-play performed by participants in the present
study. Furthermore, although Vaile et al. (2008) used
a research design that was similar to that used here (i.e.
five consecutive days of 105 min cycling), the cycling
exercise might have caused less muscle trauma than
the soccer match-play in the present study, which
could influence the time required for full recovery. It is
possible that the differences in exercise duration or
modes in these previous studies may in part explain
why subsequent exercise performance was slightly
improved in these investigations and not improved in
the present study. Regardless, in the present study
there was a general trend and a moderate effect
(d ¼ 0.65) for cold-water immersion to promote better
maintenance of high-intensity running performance
in subsequent matches (1170 + 463 m and 1192 +
317 m in match 1 vs. 1080 + 332 m and 872 +
182 m in match 4 for the cold-water immersion
and thermoneutral immersion groups respectively). Although not statistically significant, these
data indicate that post-exercise cold-water immersion is not detrimental and could be beneficial for
recovery.
Total match running distance decreased in both
groups over consecutive matches in the current
investigation but cold-water immersion was better
than thermoneutral immersion for minimizing the
decrement (9950 + 478 m and 9102 + 620 m in
match 1 vs. 9455 + 334 m and 8227 + 339 m in
match 4 for the cold-water immersion and thermoneutral immersion groups respectively). This finding
is consistent with previous reports indicating that
post-exercise cold-water immersion is beneficial for
restoring physical performance measures in basketball players over a 3-day tournament (Montgomery
et al., 2008b) and improving repeat effort cycling
performance over five consecutive days (Vaile et al.,
2008). Collectively, these data suggest that postexercise cold-water immersion is beneficial for
promoting the restoration or maintenance of highintensity exercise performance over consecutive
days. Notably, cold-water immersion reduced but
did not prevent the decrement in subsequent
performance in the present study, whereas previous
investigators have reported slight improvements in
subsequent exercise performance when cold-water
immersion was applied after exercise (Montgomery
et al., 2008b; Vaile et al., 2008). While the reason for
this difference is unknown, there could be a relationship between the extent of performance recovery and
the degree of muscle damage incurred as a result of
the task demands.
5
There is an emerging body of evidence supporting
the use of cold-water immersion for recovery
between repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise
over several days (Montgomery et al., 2008b; Vaile
et al., 2008). However, more research is required to
identify physiological mechanisms that could account for the performance benefits that have been
observed with cold-water immersion. The hydrostatic pressure exerted when a body is immersed in
water might cause intracellular/intravascular fluid
shifts that could be beneficial for recovery (Stocks
et al., 2004). Hydrostatic pressure was controlled for
in the present study, suggesting that the water
temperature during immersion could in part explain
the beneficial impact of cold-water immersion
observed in the present and previous studies (Vaile
et al., 2008). Although post-exercise cold-water
immersion appears to be beneficial for enhancing
recovery, more research is required to establish if the
benefits are pressure or temperature related.
Match heart rate measures
In the present study, participants spent less time in
the high-intensity (490% maximum heart rate) and
more time in the low-intensity (580% maximum
heart rate) heart rate zone, irrespective of treatment,
in matches 3 and 4. This finding is consistent with
the decrement in match running performance and
supports previous reports that exercise performance
declines over a tournament (Ronglan et al., 2006;
Spencer et al., 2005). In contrast to the present
findings, Vaile et al. (2008) reported that exercise
heart rate was not changed over successive days of
high-intensity cycling efforts. The demand imposed
on the cyclists in the study of Vaile et al. (2008) was
constant, whereas the demand in the present study
was not controlled and actually decreased. It is likely,
therefore, that the main reason for the lower heart
rates in matches 3 and 4 of the present study is the
lower demand during the matches as the tournament
progressed. In the current investigation, the coldwater immersion group spent more time in the
moderate (80–90% maximum heart rate) and less
time in the low (580% maximum heart rate) heart
rate zone than the thermoneutral group in matches 3
and 4 respectively. This finding most likely reflects
the better maintenance of total match running
distance observed in the cold-water immersion
group.
Player perceptual measures
In agreement with some previous research that has
examined changes in perceptual measures during
team sport tournaments, both groups of participants
in the present investigation reported increased
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6
G. J. Rowsell et al.
subjective ratings of leg soreness and general fatigue
over the tournament (Halson et al., 2008; Montgomery et al., 2008a, 2008b). Cold-water immersion has previously been shown to minimize general
fatigue and leg soreness in basketball players during a
3-day tournament (Montgomery et al., 2008b), and
in the present study it was more effective than
thermoneutral immersion for minimizing the leg
soreness and fatigue associated with playing successive matches. These findings suggest that cold-water
immersion recovery practices influence the perception of fatigue and recovery after intense exercise.
The mechanism by which this occurs is unclear and
more research is required to identify relationships
between subjective ratings of fatigue and recovery
and subsequent physical performance.
There might be a link between the perception of
fatigue and physical performance whereby athletes
instinctively regulate their intensity of exercise based
on the sensation of fatigue (Marcora, Staiano, &
Manning, 2009; Noakes, St. Clair Gibson, & Lambert, 2005). In support of this, cold-water immersion
reduced the perception of leg soreness and general
fatigue and minimized the decrements in total distance
run over consecutive matches. In addition, both
groups in the present study reported lower match
ratings of perceived exertion over the tournament and
this was associated with decrements in match running
performance. In contrast, the rating of perceived
exertion did not change and cycling performance
was slightly improved over five consecutive days of
high-intensity cycling (Vaile et al., 2008). Mechanisms
to account for these findings are unclear and require
further investigation.
Conclusion
The results of the present study suggest that coldwater immersion attenuates the decrement in match
performance variables and ameliorates increases in
subjective ratings of fatigue and recovery that occur
over consecutive matches during a soccer tournament. The current findings suggest that cold-water
immersion was more effective than thermoneutral
immersion for maintaining the total distance run in
successive matches during the tournament and
altering the subjective rating of fatigue and recovery.
These data support the use of cold-water immersion
for recovery during tournaments where matches are
played on consecutive days. Future studies should
use a bigger sample size and/or create a more
controlled situation (for example, by using simulations) to identify mechanisms that account for the
beneficial effects of cold-water immersion.
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