Cryotherapy has gained momentum over the past 10-15 years as a recovery strategy in elite athletes. It purports to minimize muscle damage following exercise, reduce symptoms of DOMS and speed up the healing process. So how effective is the method?
In a study by Sellwood et al. (2007), 40 males were randomized into 3 * 1min water immersions at either 5C (ice-water) or 24C (tepid) water following eccentric leg training of their non-dominant leg. The authors tested the effect of water temperature on pain and tenderness, thigh swelling, leg function (one leg hop for distance), max. isometric strength and serum CK all of which were recorded at baseline, 24hr, 48hr and 72hr following exercise.
The results showed no significant differences in measures for both conditions, however a significant increase in pain presented after 24hr for the ice-water group when performing a sit to stand test. The data here highlight the ineffectiveness of cryotherapy on DOMS, although the practice of it continues to be widespread.