Time to ditch the ice bath routine?

12:58 07 November 2012

Dr Jo Corbett

Dr Jo Corbett

Archant

Athletes who since the time of the ancient Greeks have plunged into icy water after intense exercise are not getting any benefit and might even be putting their health in danger, according to new research.

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth found cold water immersion was no more and no less effective in helping an athlete recover after sport than light cool-down exercise.

They also warn the practice of plunging into ice baths, common among elite athletes, might do more harm than good.

Lead author Jo Corbett said: “Ice baths are frequently used by sportsmen and women to help them recover after exercise but our results show they don’t work. They also pose a number of potentially serious health risks.

“If people using ice baths are receiving no real benefit then they should be probably be advised to stop using them.”

The study is published in the European Journal of Sport Science.

Among those known to favour the practice of plunging into water colder than 15 degrees Celsius are marathon runner Paula Radcliffe and the England rugby team.

Cold water has been thought to reduce inflammation, swelling, and muscle spasms and therefore pain, meaning an athlete can perform again at high level more quickly.

Dr Corbett said: “Cold water immersion has been used since Greek and Roman times. A book from 1715 suggests cold water immersion functions as a ‘diuretic, anti-hypnotic, antidote against opiates and as treatment for a variety of conditions including sleepy distempers, inflammations, pains, rheumatism, and convulsions’.

“The practice has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks largely to high profile sportsmen and women doing it, but how it helps has never been entirely clear and the reasons given are largely speculative.

“The findings of our study do not support it as the most effective way of speeding up recovery. It might be that previous studies have used as a control group athletes who do nothing to warm down versus those who are immersed in cold water.

“We found athletes who cooled down using light exercise recovered at the same rate as those in cold water.”

The scientists tested 40 male athletes after 90 minutes of intermittent shuttle running. After running, the men were divided into groups with 10 stood in cold water for 12 minutes; 10 stood in warm water for the same period; 10 sat in cold water for two minutes; and ten walked slowly for 12 minutes.

Muscle performance was measured before exercise and afterwards at 12 hours, a day, two days and five days.

No differences were found between any of the groups in terms of athletes’ perception of pain or in their biochemical markers of muscle cell damage.

Dr Corbett said: “The rigours of sport can require people to train and compete at an intense level so there is considerable interest in finding ways of increasing the amount of training they can do and in improving recovery time and thereby increasing performance.

“But it is clear from this study that water immersion, whether in traditional ice baths or in warm water, sitting or standing, does nothing to improve recovery time compared to traditional cool-down light exercise.

“Indeed, research is increasingly pointing towards cold water immersion as posing a possible threat to people’s health.”

The research team suggest further studies need to be done to reconcile conflicting findings from a number of studies and to establish if cold water immersion is ever effective given the potential dangers associated with it.

Other Sport Stories

48 minutes ago
Action from Somerset Rebels versus Sheffield Tigers

After their superb away win at Owlerton last week, Garry May told his ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels that he expected no complacency for the return fixture against the Sheffield Tigers, at the Oak Tree Arena (on Friday night), and that is exactly what he got, writes Dave Thompson.

Read more
Fri, 10:35
Haste Cup winner Chris Roberts receives the trophy from Amanda Haste,

Sidmouth Croquet Club was the venue for the Haste Cup, a Croquet association Open Golf Croquet Tournament, writes David Butler.

Read more
Fri, 10:33
A scorpion in full flight with two crew

The new season has begun, albeit with more confusing conditions than might have been expected, writes Rex Frost.

Read more
Thu, 09:17
Some of the Sidmouth Gig Clu members on duty at the World Chamionships:Ladies' (left to right); Lynn Bagwell, Kerry Gibbons, Gina Rodgers, Megan Rodgers, Julie Turner, Amanda Bleazard. Men (left to right); Piers Brandling-Harris, Nigel Winchester, Nick Thompson, Barry Morton and Paul Clare.

Sidmouth Gig Club members are all set for action at the World Championships being held on the Scilly Isles this weekend (May 1,2 and 3).

Read more
Thu, 08:56
Exmouth's new signing Marques Clarke. Ref exsp 4361-18-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Exmouth captain Richard Baggs believes the first three games of the season will give a strong indication what his side’s title chances are, writes Conrad Sutcliffe

Read more
Thu, 08:24
Sailing - The Solitaire Du Figaro

In just 50 days time, 40 of the world’s top offshore sailors will race into Torbay with the Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire.

Read more
Thu, 08:23
Bicton Arena

Devon’s first international horse trials drew plaudits from spectators and competitors alike following three days of intense competition which took place at Bicton Arena.

Read more
Thu, 08:13
Zhuwawo of Zimbabwe has joined Budleigh Salterton for the 2015 Tolchards Devon cricket League season

Budleigh have captured the signature of Cephas Zhuwao, a Zimbabwean who will play for the club this season in their Tolchards Devon League campaign.

Read more
Thu, 08:13
Exmouth players console themselves that they took the game to the final seconds of play . Ref exsp 4545-18-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Rugby was the big winner at Exmouth’s promotion play-off game on Saturday.

Read more
Wed, 19:05
Gig racing

Sidmouth have two gig crews involved in this weekend’s Scillies World Gig Championship.

Read more

Local Weather

Rain

Rain

max temp: 12°C

min temp: 12°C

Most Read Sport

Advertise in the Paper
Submit a Story
Subscriptions Order
Competitions
Photo Orders
Family notices
iwitness24
Google Plus
Facebook
Twitter
Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Exmouth Journal e-edition today E-edition



Exmouth's trusted business finder