Whole Body Cryotherapy in Sport and Physical Activity: A Narrative Review
Author(s): Paolo Mario Sarais, Guillermo Alvarez Rey, Giovanni Boni, Demirhan Diracoglu, Jorge Lains, Raimondo Leone, Federico Migliore, Adolfo Marco Perrotta, Alberto Migliore
Cold therapy application is commonly used to relieve pain symptoms, to reduce inflammation in chronic diseases and damage in injuries at the musculoskeletal level. Two types of technologies, Partial Body Cryotherapy (PBC) or Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC), are available in the market. This narrative review reports data from trials exploring WBC in Sport and in physical activity with the aim to show limitations and effectiveness in healthy subjects performing sport activity. The systematic search was conducted on the past ten years. The search keywords were "Whole Body Cryotherapy" OR "Cryogenic chamber therapy" OR "Cryostimulation" AND "Sport" OR "Exercise" OR "Athlete" OR "Physical Activity." The sample size, subject’s age and gender, year of publication, duration and temperature of exposition, physical activity and outcomes were extracted. 15 articles met the inclusion criteria. Data on 265 subjects aged between 20 to 56 years were reported. The WBC protocols covered temperatures from -20 to -120 degrees Celsius. Exposure times ranged from 1 minute to 3 minutes. The cryostimulation sessions were coupled to normal daily recreational activities or, in the case of athletes, competitive activities during the competition season. WBC is a safe procedure and no major adverse events neither alteration of vital parameters were reported. The benefits have been found especially in post-exercise DOMS. Since many aspects need to be clarified a research agenda has been produced to answer crucial questions. In conclusion WBC seems to be a useful tool in Sport Medicine. However, further studies are necessary to establish standardized protocols.