CRYOTHERAPY AND ATHLETES

The business of sports has evolved over the years and conditioning the body has gained more popularity than any other. However, in as much as there are many different games, what is common among most of the athletes who work full-time, is the fact that they all go through rigorous workouts to stay fit and ready for playing. Many of the worlds best known athletes of our time have adopted Cryotherapy into their routine like LeBron James (basketball), Mohamed Salah (soccer), Patrick Kane (hockey), Christiano Ronaldo (soccer), Floyd Mayweather (boxing), Andy Murray (tennis), and Lionel Messi (soccer). 

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

As athletes continuously work out rigorously in order to stay fit and ready for games, it becomes quite imperative to mention that they take their bodies through a number of straining phases daily. When their bodies are strained, they then share a common concern among them, which is the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is the pain and stiffness that is felt in muscles many hours ... sometimes lasting for a few days, after strenuous exercise routines. The soreness in the muscles is felt the most during the first 24 to 72 hours after exercise.  Being affected by DOMS is one symptom of exercise-induced muscle damage.

Although exercising is not the only cause of pain, running and excessive muscle activity during events can cause even more damage to the athletes’ muscles.  When DOMS affects a player, what comes next is the need to quickly recover in time. When an athlete fails to recover fast, it directly effects their work performance.

In a study written for the British Journal of Sports Medicine by Gill, Beaven, and Cook, for the effectiveness of post-match recovery strategies in Rugby players, mention that elite athletes depend more on consistently performing at a high level for their profession. Therefore, when an athlete gets injured or is affected by DOMS, it is quite imperative for the same to have a speedy recovery. In England, a former top scorer for Liverpool FC, Daniel Sturridge had only a single successful season that was followed by several successive injury-affected seasons. That led to him dropping in market value and subsequently being left out on the England national team. 

Because of such effects as the above, sports therapists and physicians have been looking for ways to make sure that athletes stay fit and recover quicker whenever they experience muscle damage, or DOMS. More so, athletes and their management will seek any advantage when training and preparing for competition, including ways to get them to speedy recoveries from muscle damage or pain. To fill this need, Cryotherapy has been incorporated into many of the professional Sports teams facilities.

Cold therapy has been used as far back as 2500 BCE by Egyptians who used cold to treat injuries and inflammation. More so, around 400 BCE, Hippocrates were known to use cold as a swelling and pain reliever. However, as time progressed together with technological discoveries, cold therapy evolved into the more advanced Cryotherapy.  

If you work out hard you know that shortly after an intense exercise, the body goes through a pro-inflammatory process. Our bodies eventually counter this with an anti-inflammatory response.  But when timed right, cryotherapy sessions just in time after an intense workout, will yield optimal recovery benefits.

 

 

Cryotherapy an Advanced Method of Cold Therapy

 

Cryotherapy, which means cold therapy, was discovered so that it could help athletes recover and improve their performance, to prevent relapses for different illnesses, and in the treatment of muscular and inflammatory effects. This is done in a cold chamber that patients get themselves into, leaving just the head out. Temperatures in the chamber are severely dropped using nitrogen gas. 

Cryotherapy is an effective, and advanced method for treatment of muscle injuries as proved by Hausswirth et al., (2011), who tested, and compared the efficacy of whole body cryotherapy, far infrared or passive modalities in hastening muscular recovery within the 48 hours after a simulated trail running race using 9 well-trained athletes. In three weeks, the runners performed 3 repetitions of a simulated trail run on a motorized treadmill that was designed to induce muscle damage. As soon as they finished running during the three weeks, all participants tested all the recovery modalities after 24 and 48 hours post training. Their findings were that massive muscle strength was discovered just after 1 hour of whole body cryotherapy when it took 24 hours to recover using far infrared and passive modalities did not even work. 

The above study served as proof that whole body cryotherapy is not just an advanced method of attaining maximum muscle recovery, but is also the most effective non-medicinal muscle treatment method. 

Hausswirth et al.’s study was also complimented by Purnot et al., (2011), who analyzed the effectiveness of whole body cryotherapy and passive recovery to heal exercise-induced muscle damage. The researchers used a simulated trail running race for 11 endurance-trained males who completed two experimental trials separated by 1 month in a randomized crossover design. One trial used whole body cryotherapy and the other one used the passive recovery method. The findings were that whole body cryotherapy was more effective in reducing inflammation.

In summary, there are an increasing number of studies that show evidence and support for the use of cryotherapy for better muscular health and performance. Cryotherapy has become mainstream in all professional sports teams organizations.  As the marketplace for competitive sports becomes even more popular, student athletes are stressing their bodies to an even greater level.  

 

Banfi, G. and Valentini, P. (2007). Effects of cold-water immersion of legs after training session on serum creatine kinase concentration in rugby players [letter]. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 41: 339. 

Gill, N., Beaven, C. and Cook, C. (2006). Effectiveness of post-match recovery strategies in rugby players. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 40: 260-3. 

Hausswirth, C., Louis, J., Bieuzen, F., et al. (2011). Effects of whole-body cryotherapy vs. far-infrared vs. passive modalities on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in highly-trained runners. PloS ONE. 6(12): e27749. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027749