The effects of immersion cryotherapy on levels of muscle strength and power

Andre Luiz Lopes, Júlia da Silveira Gross, Renata Kruger Lopes, Gustavo dos Santos Ribeiro, Régis Radaelli, Randhall Bruce Kreismann Carteri, Bruno Costa Teixeira, Álvaro Reischak-Oliveira


Aims: To verify the influence of immersion cryotherapy on isometric strength and lower limb power of athletes. Methods: Using a cross-sectional crossover design, 14 rugby athletes underwent three laboratory visits. The first visit was composed of anthropometric (mass, height, and body composition), aerobic capacity (cardiopulmonary exercise test), and dietary assessments. On the second and third visits, vertical jump and isometric peak torque of the knee extensors were assessed in three moments: 1) at baseline; 2) after fatigue protocol; and 3) after recovery protocol: active rest or immersion cryotherapy. Fatigue protocol was composed by running at a speed corresponding to 120% of VO2MAX until voluntary fatigue. To immersion cryotherapy, all subjects had their lower limbs immersed in a tank with ice and water (10 ± 1°C), remaining in the standing position for 10 minutes. For active recovery, subjects were standing in an empty tank. Data were analyzed on GraphPAD Prism (p<0.05). Results: Fourteen rugby athletes (age 22 ± 2 years; fat mass 27.8 ± 4.4%; VO2MAX 44.1 ± 6.7 were evaluated. There was no difference in caloric intake among the evaluation days (2,893 ± 802 versus 2,915 ± 746 kcal; p=0.949). Jump height reduced 18% after fatigue and immersion cryotherapy protocols (33.0 ± 2.8 versus 27.0 ± 2.8 cm; p<0.05) and a 7.1% increase after fatigue and active rest (32.5 ± 6.4 versus 34.8 ± 2.1 cm; p<0.05). Regarding the isometric peak torque, it was reduced by 3.7% after immersion cryotherapy (295 ± 71 versus 285 ± 68 Nm; p<0.05) and 9.6% after active rest (297 ± 73 versus 268 ± 72 Nm; p<0.05). Conclusion: Immersion cryotherapy seems to affect lower limb power albeit could assist in the recovery of isometric strength compared to passive recovery. This information is important to compose recovery protocols for specific tasks.

Keywords: physical therapy specialty, cryotherapy, recovery of function, regeneration, muscle strength, athletic performance, exercise.

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