Cryotherapy: Why Pro Athletes Like It Chilly | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Cryotherapy: Why Pro Athletes Like It Chilly

Play associated audio

The traditional ice bath isn't so cool anymore. These days, professional athletes are opting for a treatment that sounds more like sci-fi torture: whole-body cryotherapy.

Here's how it works: You stand in a cylindrical chamber for about two and a half minutes. Hyper-cold air is released all around your body, bringing the temperature down to as low as 300 degrees below zero.

It's a similar concept to an ice bath, but the benefits, many athletes say, are far better. Texas Rangers' pitcher C.J. Wilson is a regular, and several members of the Dallas Mavericks credit this year's NBA Championship win in part to their cryotherapy treatments. One athlete compared it to standing in a giant Red Bull can with your head poking out.

But the results are still largely anecdotal. Doug Casa, a kinesiology professor at the University of Connecticut, tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rebecca Roberts he doesn't see much of a difference between cryotherapy chambers and the traditional ice bath.

"A lot of the companies that have these extremely expensive, you know, $20,000-$40,000 cryotherapy units, they don't really have a lot of evidence to back [it] up," he says

Eric Rauscher disagrees. He's the managing director of Millennium Ice, a company that manufactures whole-body cryotherapy chambers in the U.S.

"We're taking skin-surface temperature to 30 degrees in less than a minute," he says. "The body literally gives up trying to regulate skin-surface temperature, instead drawing the blood to the core to protect the core."

When the blood is in the core, Rauscher says, it picks up oxygen and nutrients, since the body "feels like it's in massive distress."

"It's really not," he adds, "but it feels like it."

At the end of the 2.5-minute session, the brain figures out where to send the blood first.

In the case of the Dallas Mavericks players, he says, fatigued leg muscles were getting oxygen-rich blood. "They were stepping out of the device essentially with instant recovery effects."

Rauscher has tried cryotherapy himself. He says he's been using it every other day over the course of a month. "Although it's cold, it's not that excruciating cold that an ice bath feels like."

Track star Justin Gatlin allegedly got frostbite on his leg from a treatment. Rauscher blames that on Gatlin for wearing wet socks.

"Obviously, if you're going to step in a device with wet socks, you're going to do some damage," he says. "But even then with Justin, what happened was a little bit of a blistering effect, no frostbite or any permanent damage."

The device doesn't have much peer-reviewed research in the United States. Rauscher says his own company spent months monitoring athletes and looking for the placebo effect.

"Every single athlete that we worked with told us that it produced a change, it produced a recovery like they hadn't felt," Rauscher says. "You'll see this in training rooms around the country."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Getting On' Star Niecy Nash: 'I Never Wanted To Be Funny'

Nash says it took her a long time to see her comedic side as a gift, but she finally embraced it. Now her role as Nurse Didi in the HBO comedy series has opened the door to more serious opportunities.
WAMU 88.5

Hops Coming Home: Loudoun County To Add Hop Production Facility

The first commercial-scale hop production and processing facility in the region is being planned out in Loudoun County, further adding to the region's burgeoning beer business.

NPR

Families Feel Sidelined As U.S. Reviews Hostage Policy

The White House is reviewing how it handles hostage crises following the brutal murders of Americans abroad, but families of hostages say they're often left out of the conversation.
NPR

Marine Corps Finds It Tough To Shut Down Sexist Facebook Groups

Female Marines are being humiliated and generally degraded by their peers on Facebook. The groups' pages are frequently shut down, but return within days due to a dedicated following.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.