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

12:24
Somerset Rebels Brady Kurtz challenging Ipswich rider Danny King. Picture: COLIN BURNETT

The Exeter Falcons 2015 speedway season will come to an end in style on Friday (September 4), when they race their second 15 heat match, this time against the Somerset Rebels Select at the Oak Tree Arena, writes Tony Lethbridge.

Read more
12:22
Somerset Rebels Speedway action

Following a highly successful tour of the Scottish tracks, in which they banked 7-points into their Premier League account, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels returned to the Oak Tree Arena to complete their final home league fixture of the 2015 season, writes Dave Thompson.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Bowls

With many matches cancelled due to the heavy rain, the Budleigh ladies have played two of their Over-50s League games, both against Heavitree, obtaining the maximum of six points in both games.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Cricket - generic picture

The final league game of the season for Topsham St James was perhaps a little fortunate not to fall victim to the weather and the Saints were able to see off Buckland Monachorum and complete the double over the South West Devon side.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015

Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club bring the curtain down on their season with a number of activities this weekend.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015

Budleigh’s Tolchards League A Division promotion hopes were finally ended on the penultimate Saturday of the season as they were beaten by 81 runs at Sandford while rivals Cornwood were winning with something to spare at Bradninch.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Football goalnet. Ref shsp 7216-33-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Exmouth Spartans made a superb start to life in the Fresha League Division Eight with a 5-1 win over Stoke Arms United at Warren View.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Bowls

It has been a good week for the Madeira ladies. In the National Topclub, the Madeira ladies successfully won their game against Leamington Spa at Olveston, writes Mary Ann Dowrick.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Bowls

The Evans Cup is an event played annually at Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club Bowls Section and the recent inclement weather held off to allow for a most entertaining and competitive day for all who were present for a well-supported day.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Golf generic picture

The Cobbett Cup and the monthly Stableford were the targets aimed for on Saturday, writes Paul Willoughby.

Read more

Local Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 17°C

min temp: 11°C

Most Read Sport

Great British Life


Great British Life

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

Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

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


Exmouth's trusted business finder