“Cryotherapy” has emerged as something of a buzz word in the sports medicine industry in recent years. Often we have seen sports star pictured in cold chambers, a bath of ice or indeed submerged in extremely cold water.
At its most basic, Cryotherapy is described as using extremely cold temperatures, often at minus 110 degree Celsius, to aid in the treatment of a wide range of injuries.
However, as Dr Chris Bleakley, lecturer at the University of Ulster explains, Cryotherapy offers much more.
When a top sports person or athlete is injured, the focus, naturally, is on the area affected. Using Cryotherapy allows a Sports Medicine professional to not only control the pain, reducing inflammation and the swelling for the athlete but also to slow down his metabolism.
As Dr Bleakley points out slowing down the metabolism is very important, especially in the management of secondary cell injury. When an injury occurs, the healthy cells around the injury are deprived of blood, oxygen and nutrients and as a result, they die too.
So by cooling the body tissue thus reducing the metabolism, you give the cells a “mechanism to cope with that ischemic environment”
However before you all run off and jump into a bath of extremely cold ice, you need to be warned that cryotherapy is not suitable for all injuries and body types.
In fact, according to Dr Bleakley, Cryotherapy is really just suited for injury close to the surface of the skin in those with low body fat. The field according to the lecturer is one that requires more study and is perhaps, given the lack of medical technology, one of the rare situations where the medical theory lags behind the practical use.
But for those that are suited to this type of treatment and for the club’s medical staff charged with managing their well-being cryotherapy is an inexpensive and effective pain management tool”.