Research findings water immersion Feb-2020
25 March 2020 / 3 comments

Findings & Conclusions

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ProCcare extracts the newly published studies on local cryotherapy, water immersion, and whole-body cryotherapy, every month. These studies are the basis of our literature database and form the foundation of our ProCare method. In each newsletter, we will discuss with our key opinion leaders, two studies that provide exciting insights and show the monthly new published studies.

Study 1: Ihsan, M., Abbiss, C. R., Gregson, W. & Allan, R. Warming to the ice bath: Don’t go cool on cold-water immersion just yet! Temperature 0, 1–3 (2020).

Method: Ihsan and colleagues comment on the current scaremongering on the use of cold-water immersion, a recovery modality in sports based on two recent research studies from Cheng and colleagues(2018).

Primary findings by the authors:

  • While research from Cheng and colleagues (2018) has indicated meaningful physiological responses to extreme cooling, resulting in muscle temperature of 15°C/ 59°F, it should not be suggested that post-exercise 10-15min @ 10-15°C/ 50-59°F, will confer similar effects.
  • There is convincing evidence supporting the use of cold water immersion to enhance physiological recovery.
ProCcare's take-home message: 

Ihsan and colleagues have a strong point; “it is the responsibility of the scientific community to be communicating the research findings to those undertaking cold water immersion regularly.”We believe that the results of the studies from Cheng should NOT be extrapolated to the field of performance recovery due to:

  1. Cheng and colleagues used “local” cooling, wherein performance recovery, full-body immersion is recommended. An arm has a small circumference, and therefore the drop is local muscle temperature will be more substantial than cooling legs or a full body.
  2. The temperatures achieved by Cheng and colleagues(muscle temperature of 15°C/ 59°F) are not comparable to the temperatures achieved following the recommended 10-15min @10-15°C/ 50-59°F immersion protocols for performance recovery.

The results of Cheng and colleagues are essential for the field of acute care management in rehabilitation. The results tell us that with cooling, we can cool down local muscle tissue temperature significantly and thereby can lower secondary metabolic damage. A fundamental physiological principle in the first phases after an acute trauma as it preserves healthy tissue to survive, which will enhance rehabilitation.

Translating the knowledge into practice always seems to be a challenge as the outcome should be placed in a particular perspective. There is significant evidence to use cold-water immersion as a recovery modality. However, its effect is influenced by many factors, including duration, timing, magnitude, individual responses, objective, and nature of the activity.

In case gaining muscle mass and strength is the goal, using cold-water immersion, recovery after training should be reconsidered. Next, using cold-water immersion between practice on one day requires a solid warm-up as cold- water immersion does decrease muscle tissue temperature significantly, a lower muscle temperature results in weaker muscle power. Like proper scheduling training volume, an appropriate periodization of cold-water immersion (and other forms of recovery modalities) is warranted as well! Tavares and colleagues in 2018 showed that with a proper periodization of cold water immersion sessions during an intense three-week pre-season phase in elite rugby players, cold water immersion might provide beneficial effects by reducing fatigue and soreness. More on a proper periodization of cold-water immersion can be learned in our online WI courses.

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