[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Sports star ice baths questioned
Lee Childs
The research challenges the no pain, no gain theory
Paula Radcliffe may say they are the secret of her success, but Australian research is questioning the benefits of taking an ice bath after exercise.

Physiotherapists recommend the bath as a way to speed up recovery, claiming the icy cold helps shift lactic acid.

But this is unproven, and a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine now claims the opposite may be true.

Out of 40 volunteers, those who took an icy plunge reported more pain after 24 hours than those who took a tepid bath.

Tepid response

Ice baths have become one of the most fashionable ways of recovering after an intense game or marathon. From rugby to tennis players, the bath has a series of celebrity endorsers.

The theory is that the icy cold causes the blood vessels to tighten, and drains the blood along with waste products such as lactic acid out of the legs.

When Jonny Wilkinson or Paula Radcliffe emerge from the bath, their limbs fill up with fresh blood which invigorates the muscles with oxygen and helps the cells repair.

Ice-water immersion offers no benefit for pain, swelling, isometric strength and function, and in fact may make more athletes sore the next day

Although physiotherapists who promote the bath have had little evidence to prove this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from the athletes themselves that the bath makes them feel better.

In line with this theory, the study carried out at the University of Melbourne had expected to find a 25% reduction in pain after 48 hours among those who had the ice immersion.

Instead it found that there was no difference in physical pain measurements such as swelling or tenderness, and in fact those who had been in the ice reported more pain when going from a sitting to a standing position after 24 hours than those who had the tepid treatment.

"This study challenges the use of ice-water immersion in athletes," wrote the researchers.

"Ice-water immersion offers no benefit for pain, swelling, isometric strength and function, and in fact may make more athletes sore the next day."

It was unclear why the ice may had this effect, and the researchers said further study was needed.

John Brewer, Director of the Lucozade Sports Science Academy, said he did not find it surprising that there was no difference between the two samples.

"I don't find it hard to believe that the ice doesn't have any long-term benefit, although I would question whether the ice group really did feel more pain after 24 hours than the tepid group. The problem with pain is that it is subjective and very hard to measure," he said.

"And because it's subjective, there may even be a placebo effect on those who take the cold bath. It's part of their ritual, it finishes off the endurance test, and many clearly report that it makes them feel better."




SEE ALSO
Radcliffe method cuts no ice
07 Aug 02 |  European Athletics
The cold benefits of ice baths
30 Sep 03 |  Features

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific