SportStars Magazine

Is Cryotherapy better than Ice Baths?

Is Cryotherapy better than Ice Baths? Athletes are using cryotherapy—the whole-body or localized use of extreme cold temperatures in therapy

Is Cryotherapy better than Ice Baths? High school athletes are warming to Roseville’s U.S. Cryotherapy and its frigid temps.  

Extreme cold and sports are not normally seen as compatible, let alone desirable. Yet a growing number of local high school athletes are making cryotherapy—the whole-body or localized use of extreme cold temperatures in therapy—a hot new sports medicine alternative.

US Cryotherapy in Roseville has offered the treatment, which uses temperatures from minus-76 to minus-166 degrees Fahrenheit, for nearly two years. Futhermore, they house the only four-person cryotherapy chamber in the United States. The company, founded and run by the Kramer family (father Linzie and sons Rob, Kevin, and Todd Hail of Vacaville), has exclusive rights to the technology in the U.S.  They have been carefully planning its growth since introducing cryotherapy to American athletes.

The facility in Roseville often hosts high-profile professional athletes such as Oakland Raiders linebacker and Granite Bay High graduate Miles Burris. Also they host NBA players when they are in town to play the Sacramento Kings. While the exposure to the big money and bigger reach of major-league stars has helped US Cryotherapy work deals to provide equipment to several NBA franchises and major universities, the company understands that a grassroots approach which includes high school athletes will yield its greatest growth in sales and recognition.

“Our biggest marketing opportunity is events,” General Manager Dave Lafferty said of US Cryotherapy. Therefore they set up at numerous 5k and 10k runs, triathlons, and sports tournaments with their smaller localized treatment machines and staff. “We want to get high school athletes, weekend warriors, runners, extreme athletes, and others. Then they are going to bring their friends in. Referrals are what get people in the door.”

Team Invitations

US Cryotherapy invites entire teams from local high schools, community colleges, and clubs for free one-time treatments for every player. This includes a cryo chamber session and localized session. The goal of the team sessions is to increase the exposure of the treatment and its benefits. And to hopefully bring back one or two athletes as regular members.

Quinton Kirk, a senior football and track star at Capital Christian, is one of many local high schoolers who have been converted from team session visitor to member and recruiter.

“I have gotten like five other guys to come with me and experience it,” Kirk said. “I was totally dragged into doing it the first time and was not a believer, but I go all the time now.”

Benefits

Some of the benefits Kirk and other members enjoy are better health and faster recovery from injury. The cryotherapy process reduces inflammation for pain relief. It also improves mobility by decreasing the cellular metabolism, pain and spasm while increasing cellular survival. Also it increases the levels of oxygenated blood delivered to damaged tissue.

In simpler terms, blood flows away from swollen areas to return to the body core because the body believes that it is freezing. After the blood has left injured or sore areas, it recirculates with a fresh flow of blood to the extremities.  Also it activates the body’s hormone, immune, and nervous systems.

Typical Treatment

A typical treatment session begins with protecting sensitive body parts with gloves, slippers, surgical masks, and headbands or knit caps. Individual skin temperatures are taken before up to four individuals enter the first chamber. The temperature  is normally set near minus-70 to minus-80 degrees, for 30 seconds. First is the brief acclimation to the cold. Persons then move to the main chamber (minus-160 to minus-170 degrees) for two to three minutes.

US Cryotherapy staff members monitor the chambers. The staff can speak to and view those receiving treatment through the sound system and glass enclosure. This ensures safety and constant communication. After the time in the main chamber, individuals return to the antechamber to begin to warm back up. This is in preparation for a return to normal room temperature. After exiting the chamber, skin temperatures are again taken. The ideal drop in skin temperature is 30 to 40 degrees after the brief chamber session.  Then individuals change out of the cold weather gear for a treadmill or stationary bike session that will aid in the re-circulation process.

With the blood flowing and skin temperature returning to normal, members can opt for a localized cold air treatment. This  specifically treats sore or injured areas to further assist with the decrease in inflammation. The final options include a session on the hydro massage bed located in an adjacent private room. Also a wellness drink to cap the session (aloe shots, green tea, and meal replacement shakes) are offered.

Results

“If you try it once, you’ll feel great the next day,” said Trey Olsen, a junior football and baseball player at Oakmont High in Roseville. “But it’s not a one-trick wonder. The benefits increase as you go more regularly.”

“It’s an awesome thing. It gets you motivated because you are not waking up with the soreness that might keep you from working out. It goes beyond athletics, and just makes you feel better.”

This process involves the release of endorphins Lafferty said.  As a result many first-time participants feel a rush in addition to the decrease in soreness. He did emphasize that the benefits are greater with more regularity of the treatments.

“Clinical studies have shown that when you reach 10 or more treatments, you will see more long-term effects or benefits,” Lafferty said. “A one-time treatment will not completely treat an injury, but you will feel the benefit.”

Studies

More studies are being conducted on the effects of cryotherapy. These include current studies being performed at UC Davis and Illinois State University. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not require approval of cryotherapy because it is a non-invasive procedure, the company believes that additional studies can help business with the added confirmation and explanation of benefits, as well as increase exposure of cryotherapy to the mainstream.

US Cryotherapy does not require appointments for treatment, but members do get priority during busier times. The briefness of the treatment sessions allows for quick turnaround of clientele in the chambers, and has rarely caused any serious backup issues at the facility, according to Lafferty.

Rates

US Cryotherapy offers numerous packages and memberships. The most popular option is the monthly membership option. With this students can receive at a discounted rate of $69 per month. The discounted rate requires a minimum five-month commitment. The membership allows student-athletes to receive one cryo chamber session and one localized session per day. Other packages offer multiple cryo chamber sessions with various other treatments and/or drinks. Lafferty noted that treatments can be selected a la carte. But that the packages and memberships provided the best bang for an individual’s hard-earned buck.

“We want to make it affordable, so that everyone can come in,” he said. “The goal or vision of the company is to explore all different avenues to open additional centers and make cryotherapy available to more people at an affordable price.”

Improved Technology

US Cryotherapy also wants to appeal to athletes with its improved technology that speeds up recovery. Traditional options such as ice baths and lengthy physical therapy sessions can provide relief and recovery. But athletes who have used cryotherapy extol the process.

“A teammate took me (to US Cryotherapy) and I thought she was crazy,” said Bella Vista volleyball player Kyndra Trevino-Scott. Scott had suffered a rotator cuff strain last spring. “I had been going to physical therapy, but I really could tell that I got much better results from the cryotherapy. I had less pain and was sleeping better, and felt that I got back to normal more quickly.”

Cryo vs. Ice Baths

Many athletes who have used ice baths prefer cryotherapy. This is due to the shorter exposure to extreme cold and the increased mobility in the cryo chamber.

“I was more scared of an ice bath than I was the first time I went into the chamber,” said Lafferty. Lafferty had plenty of icing experience as a pitcher and quarterback at Vacaville High and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “The ice bath is painful and you are in there for at least 10 minutes. By comparison, you are in the chamber for just three minutes. And you still have full range of motion in the chamber.”

Additionally, the ice bath lowers both the skin temperature and core temperature whereas cryotherapy treatment lowers only the skin temperature. Sometimes the pain of an ice bath can be worse than the pain of an extended cold streak on the court, field, or track.

With cryotherapy, athletes are finding a preferred cold treatment. This is helping them return to or stay on the playing field where they can get hot.

And for high school stars and weekend warriors alike, that is a pretty cool trend!

By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor

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