MADISON – In the ever-evolving world of sports physical therapy centered around training, recovery and rehabilitation, a new regimen is emerging, aimed to help athletes recover faster.
Cryotherapy is a treatment that exposes the body from the neck down to sub-zero temperatures by freezing nitrogen gas inside of a chamber. Its purpose is to reduce pain and inflammation caused by strenuous exercise.
The Madison Healthplex Performance Center recently installed an Impact Cryotherapy Chamber. Its use is aimed for athletes across all spectrums — from high school football players to someone training for running a race.
“In sports today, recovery is the big issue that everyone’s trying to figure out,” Healthplex Perfomance director R.J. Barrett said. “We want to make sure athletes are capable of recovering faster, not just in sports but training in general. What can they do to feel better the next day?”
The root ‘cryo-‘ is defined as “involving or producing cold, especially extreme cold.” Forms of cryotherapy have been used in athletic training and rehabilitation for years, from ice pack treatment to submerging the body in an ice bath.
The goal of the Impact Cryotherapy Chamber is to expedite that process. An athlete is only inside of the chamber for three minutes at a time while exposing the body to temperatures that range from negative 110-130 degrees Celsius.
Before its Week 4 loss to South Panola, a group of Madison Central football players tested out the treatment.
“It was a different kind of cold, a dry cold, and it was a lot quicker,” Madison Central tight end Grayson Gunter said. “Usually you have to stay in the cold tub for 10 minutes, but that was only three minutes, and I felt like it was just as effective.”
The Healthplex is offering discounted rates for all high school athletes in the metro area. To achieve results, Barrett said athletes need to use cryotherapy two to three times per week before and after competing.
“Think about a high school athlete. He’s playing at a very high level for two hours out of the day and then he comes in here, does cryotherapy and repeats the treatment,” Barrett said. “It has to become part of their routine for daily rehab. Just like a pitcher does arm exercises before he throws, we need to get athletes in this (chamber) before and after they perform for their preparation and recovery.”
Jack Walker noticed a difference in how he felt during warmups and early in the Jaguars’ 24-6 loss to the No. 1 team in Mississippi. On the receiving end of a physical battle put forth by South Panola’s defensive line, the Madison Central quarterback hopes cryotherapy will help him recover faster so he and his team can prepare for the rest of a 2015 schedule that features no bye weeks.
“I felt great. It made me feel a whole lot better and got me ready to play for Thursday,” Walker said. “I’m sore right now, so we’ll probably try to do it after games, too.”
Added Gunter: “With the schedule we have, you just have to be able to stay healthy and stay in it. I think I’m definitely going to use it again.”
MRA head football coach Herbert Davis already has his team do cold and hot treatments weekly at the Healthplex. Adding cryotherapy to the Patriots’ training regimen could give Davis’ program and others in the area an advantage in recovering faster from week to week.
“They have all this stuff in college. We don’t in high school,” Davis said. “It’s an opportunity for me and all of our coaches up here to get our guys to another level recovery-wise. I know what happened with just the hot and cold treatment. This takes it to another level.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or email@example.com. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.
Cronin’s Cryotherapy experience
I tried Cryotherapy for the first time last week when doing research for this story. Here are my observations.
•I decided to stick with Level 1 (-110 degrees Celsius) for my first treatment. I went in wearing a tank top and shorts and didn’t start feeling the burn of the cold until about 90 seconds in. The treatment only lasts three minutes, but I was counting every second of those last 90 until the machine turned off.
•Upon exiting the chamber, I walked on the treadmill for a few minutes to get the blood flowing to my muscles. I immediately felt more awake, refreshed and rejuvenated. The skin on my legs tingled longer than any other exposed area and took longer to get warm.
•Two weeks ago I twisted my right ankle while exercising. I had less inflammation after my Cryotherapy session and was able to stretch it further than I had before. I could feel the pain coming back about five hours later when I tried to run on it, but the immediate and temporary relief was nice.