Ice Baths

This was in todays BBC Sports, makes you think. Are sheep walking or does this really help?

Sports star ice baths questioned
Lee Childs
The research challenges the no pain, no gain theory
Paula Radcliffe may say they are the secret of her success, but Australian research is questioning the benefits of taking an ice bath after exercise.

Physiotherapists recommend the bath as a way to speed up recovery, claiming the icy cold helps shift lactic acid.

But this is unproven, and a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine now claims the opposite may be true.

Out of 40 volunteers, those who took an icy plunge reported more pain after 24 hours than those who took a tepid bath.

Tepid response

Ice baths have become one of the most fashionable ways of recovering after an intense game or marathon. From rugby to tennis players, the bath has a series of celebrity endorsers.

The theory is that the icy cold causes the blood vessels to tighten, and drains the blood along with waste products such as lactic acid out of the legs.

When Jonny Wilkinson or Paula Radcliffe emerge from the bath, their limbs fill up with fresh blood which invigorates the muscles with oxygen and helps the cells repair.

Ice-water immersion offers no benefit for pain, swelling, isometric strength and function, and in fact may make more athletes sore the next day

Although physiotherapists who promote the bath have had little evidence to prove this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from the athletes themselves that the bath makes them feel better.

In line with this theory, the study carried out at the University of Melbourne had expected to find a 25% reduction in pain after 48 hours among those who had the ice immersion.

Instead it found that there was no difference in physical pain measurements such as swelling or tenderness, and in fact those who had been in the ice reported more pain when going from a sitting to a standing position after 24 hours than those who had the tepid treatment.

"This study challenges the use of ice-water immersion in athletes," wrote the researchers.

"Ice-water immersion offers no benefit for pain, swelling, isometric strength and function, and in fact may make more athletes sore the next day."

It was unclear why the ice may had this effect, and the researchers said further study was needed.

John Brewer, Director of the Lucozade Sports Science Academy, said he did not find it surprising that there was no difference between the two samples.

"I don't find it hard to believe that the ice doesn't have any long-term benefit, although I would question whether the ice group really did feel more pain after 24 hours than the tepid group. The problem with pain is that it is subjective and very hard to measure," he said.

"And because it's subjective, there may even be a placebo effect on those who take the cold bath. It's part of their ritual, it finishes off the endurance test, and many clearly report that it makes them feel better."


At 7/10/07, 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its interesting to hear that ice baths are still thought to decrease blood flow. If you look at someone after icing, superficial blood flow increases... its a natural response. I think that ice baths work because celluar metabolism is slowed down to conserve energy and protect the vital organs. It is intersting to hear that some individuals felt more pain....

At 7/10/07, 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although i do not include them as part of my recovery plan for my independant ball guys, they still request them. Depending on the issue, I figure a little mental edge for them is better than nothing. I have never seen any benefit from them.

At 7/10/07, 2:18 PM, Anonymous tlanger said...

For what it's worth icing in general MIGHT be pointless at best and harmful at worst; for example, the bodies natural healing response to injury is to create inflammation/swelling and ice inhibits this process. IMO there is a time and a place for icing (i.e., avoid compartmental injuries/nerve damage), but it's used incorrectly much of the time….

Todd Langer

At 7/10/07, 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Todd, as that is what I tell my pitchers all the time, yet they insist after every pitching session, be it 10 throws or 75, they're wrapping the ice on the shoudler. Any other reasons why we have so many cuff and scapular problems?

At 7/10/07, 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you've got to ask yourself how much inflamation is normal and how much is harmful. In my opinion, normal everyday activity causes normal inflamation. Repetitive trauma or acute trauma causes this system to over-react. There should be more inflamation to take care of more trauma thus more to repair but the body typically produces too much inflamation.

At 7/11/07, 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i use contrast baths (hot and cold) to "freshen up" my basketball players whenever we're competing in international tournaments. usually, in international tournaments, games are played daily for up to 10 days. practicing in the morning and playing at night taxes the body really hard. they start feeling "it" around day 3 of competition. this is when i find ways to start them up again.
i have used the pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, cold plunge (in different combinations) to do contrast bath. the players love it! they feel energized and refreshed after doing it and are ready to go again.
as far as clearing the body of lactic acid.... we'll need further studies on that. i think the primary effect is from giving the nervous system a new stimuli.

At 7/12/07, 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent theory Dennis. I've always wondered why science shows no evidence of contrast baths doing anything but yet athletes swear by them.

At 7/12/07, 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On top of that, studies showing lactic acid is not even a contributor to DOMS, and may in fact be an energy source.

At 7/12/07, 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The research article had one minute dunks for three times with untrained athletes after leg extensions.

Carl Valle

At 7/13/07, 8:10 AM, Anonymous Dave K. said...

"Untrained athletes" & (3) 1 minute dunks.

Does this represent the scenarios we see?

When someone shows me a study of trained athletes and a protocol that has some logic rather than the 3, 1 mins. then I am interested.

A critical eye of the study might be that there was a bias and the science was contoured to get the desired result?
Its going to take more than this info to get me to believe that hydrostatic pressure and dropping temps (core & muscle) dont have value when addressing inflamation.

Or that contrast baths do not provide a flushing response that is of value.


Post a Comment

<< Home