Research findings Whole-body cryo Feb-2020
25 March 2020 / 0 comments

Findings & Conclusions

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February 2020

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 ProCcare 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.

No study is published this month with whole-body cryotherapy as the main topic. Therefore, we selected a review study, that in our opinion, is worth sharing, which is published in 2019.

Partridge, E. M., Cooke, J., McKune, A. & Pyne, D. B. Whole-Body Cryotherapy: Potential to Enhance AthletePreparation for Competition? Front Physiol 10, 1007 (2019).

Method: The study summarized and evaluated the existing research about the acute effects of WBC exposure, and how these theoretically translate into enhanced readiness: the theoretical benefits of WBC before a competition to improve performance.

Primary findings by the authors:

  1. WBC shows the potential as a novel “warm-up intervention” before the competition by high-performance athletes when integrated with the traditional elements of active warm-up (like massages, foam rolling, or other pain relief techniques).
  2. This enhancing effect is related to the potentiating effects of hormonal changes, reductions in body temperatures, and perceived soreness and fatigue.

ProCcare's take-home message:

Whole-body cryo in sports is mainly known for recovery purposes implying WBC AFTER performance. This review highlights the potential effect when using WBC PRIOR TO performance attributed to hormonal changes (testosterone, cortisol, alpha-amylase, and catecholamines), reductions in body temperatures, and perceived soreness and fatigue.  

Our own study group validated the fact that using WBC before the performance could result in performance-enhancing effects. Sixteen men with an average age (±SD) of 21.9 ± 2.2 years participated in our study, which consisted of two testing sessions for each person. Each testing session contained a customized intervention (-110˚C/-166°F) or control protocol (-5˚C/23°F) in the cryogenic chamber, followed by three sets of three anaerobic power tests: the vertical jump test, the Keiser leg press test, and the 30 secWingate test. Each set started with the vertical jump test at 65 (T65), 80 (T80), and 95 (T95) minutes after WBC. The results obtained showed a significantly smaller decline in maximal anaerobic power (MAP) over the three Wingate tests in the intervention protocol, which was caused by a higher MAP at T95 compared to the control protocol (see graph). Also, a non-significant increase in jump height was observed after WBC at T80 and T95. The results on the leg press test were not significantly different between the intervention and control protocol. 

To address practical implications, WBC could be helpful in sports with repetitive high-intensity bouts such as multiple rounds in boxing or heats in athletics. WBC could beneficially influence short sprint bouts in team sports like football. WBC seems to induce an increased ability to recover from anaerobic exercise, enabling the player to sustain a certain level of anaerobic performance until the end of the match. As shown in the study above, particularly after 90 minutes, the benefits kick in.

To assist the readiness of our athletes, WBC should, potentially, be prescribed over water immersion when used before a performance. An essential difference between WBC and cold-water immersion is the conductivity between either air or water. Water is a much better conductor and, therefore, will extract more energy from the body. When applying both according to the recommended treatment dosage, CWI will result in a more significant reduced tissue temperatures. Although water immersion will also reduce the perceived soreness, for instance, evidenced in a study from Ahokas and colleagues (2019) who reported a 34% reduction, the use of water immersion would require a more prolonged and more intense warm-up to increase tissue temperatures again (a colder muscle will generate less power). You can read more about the differences between WBC and CWI here.

It should not only be about the readiness of our athletes. Also, within rehabilitation and occupational settings, this form of enhancing readiness will be of benefit and thereby expanding the possibilities on when to use WBC in practice.


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