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Cryotherapy reinvented

Image showing researchers with one in ice bathCase study: Supporting elite athletes by improving use of cryotherapy in recovery

Staff: Professor Glyn Howatson, Dr Stuart Goodall, Dr Kirsty Hicks

Cold water immersion (CWI), a form of cryotherapy, is routinely deployed after competition and other strenuous exercise to accelerate athletes’ recovery and provide a competitive edge. The English Institute of Sport (EIS) provides science and medicine support services to the British Olympic and Paralympic sports teams. Research from the University of Northumbria shaped the development of cryotherapy guidelines for the EIS. These guidelines formed the basis of training developed for EIS practitioners and physiotherapists who work with elite athletes. In the lead-up to and throughout the 2016 Rio Olympics, advice was adopted by the British Olympic Association, and the new guidelines were used by athletes across 23 Team GB sports to enhance recovery. Since then, additional research has led to the innovative application of phase change material (PCM) enabling more athletes to use cryotherapy, more often, and with greater benefits. This approach has been used by athletes in international competition, and six teams are using it in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. Since 2019, all five EIS key treatment centres have also used the new technique.

Underpinning research

Leeder, J., Gissane, C., van Someren, K. Gregson, W. and Glyn Howatson (2012). ‘Cold water immersion and recovery from strenuous exerciseBritish Journal of Sports Medicine, 46: 233-240

Leeder, J., Godfrey, M., Gibbon, D., Gaze, D., Davison, G., van Someren, K. and Glyn Howatson (2019). ‘Cold water immersion improves recovery of sprint speed following a simulated tournamentEuropean Journal of Sport Science 19: 1166-1174 https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1585478 

Kwiecien, S., McHugh, M. and Glyn Howatson (2018). ‘The efficacy of cooling with phase change material for the treatment of exercise-induced muscle damage: pilot studyJournal of Sport Science 36: 407-413

Kwiecien, S., McHugh, M., Stuart Goodall., Kirsty Hicks., Hunter, A. and Glyn Howatson (2019). ‘Exploring the efficacy of a safe cryotherapy alternative: physiological temperature changes from Cold Water Immersion vs Phase Change Material coolingInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 14: 1288-1296

Clifford, T., Abbott, W., Kwiecien, S., Glyn Howatson and McHugh, M. (2018). ‘Cryotherapy re-invented: application of phase change material for recovery in elite soccerInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 13: 584-589

Mullaney, M., *McHugh., *Kwiecien, S., **Ioviero, N., **Fink, A. and Glyn Howatson (2020). ‘Accelerated muscle recovery in baseball pitchers using Phase Change Material coolingMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise


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