The big chill: University measures cryotherapy’s sports performance

University of Bolton Sports lecturers are working with Super League side and current Challenge Cup holders Warrington Wolves to discover whether cryotherapy can improve player recovery and performance.

The treatment involves exposing the players to temperatures of around -135ºC, for short bursts, in a nitrogen-cooled cryochamber. The theory is that exposing a player’s whole body to extreme cold could potentially have physiological effects that help players resume training and regain match day fitness at optimal rates.

Now the University of Bolton’s research team is scientifically testing the theory – taking a series of samples from players during their recovery phase following matches and assessing the influence of cryotherapy treatment.

Extreme cold to aid recovery is nothing new for athletes. The ice bath is a long established, if uncomfortable, treatment for sports injuries. But cryotherapy does not plunge the player’s body into the shock and discomfort of being submerged in ice-cold water.

Players go into the cryochamber straight after the game – up to two at a time – move freely about in a dry atmosphere for two to three minutes. That is around 30 per cent less time than they would be required to endure a conventional ice bath treatment.

Said head of sports rehabilitation, Anna Fitzpatrick: ‘In the race for Wembley or the Grand Final first-class recovery can give a team an edge. Well-recovered players perform and prepare better, therefore it may enable the coaches to have a healthier squad for match selection.

How well cryotherapy is performing is confidential. The club receives regular reports from the University but the research team’s findings will not be published until later in the year.

All testing is carried out by lecturer Adam Naylor: ‘The test results are between us and the club until we publish but it wouldn’t be giving too much away to say we’re pleased with what we’re seeing.’

Added lecturer Andy Schofield: ‘When I worked in sports rehabilitation for Burnley football club we used ice baths, certainly. But Warrington are pioneers and our research findings will be of great interest across many sports.’

The Warrington Wolves players certainly agree. Leigh Briers said: ‘I can definitely feel the benefit – I don’t feel half as sore as I used to.’

Head physiotherapist, Ben Stirling added: ‘This is one of the first studies of its kind in the UK. We’ve done our pre-season training at Bolton One and biomechanical modelling. Bolton One is a one-stop-shop for us, which is excellent.’

The Wolves have been using a British Oxygen Company mobile unit after various games during the past season.

The University of Bolton cryotherapy research team includes: Adam Naylor, Mark Gallamore, Colin Robertson, Anna Fitzpatrick and Andy Schofield.

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