Miami Marlins

Cryotherapy has been an intriguing new trend in the sports science world as teams and athletes are using the Han-Solo-like-technology in pursuit of a deep freeze that “resets” the body and dramatically helps the recovery process.

Today, the Miami Marlins are the latest team to go all in on the sub-freezing science and have added a state-of-the-art whole body cryotherapy chamber to their training and recovery options for players. They will be using a chamber from Atlanta-based Impact Cryotherapy, which is a leading American-designed and American-manufactured cryotherapy system.

Athletes, from Mayweather, to Lebron, to the Dallas Mavericks, and now the Marlins, have started using cryotherapy to give their bodies an edge in preparing for competition and recovering from workouts and games faster.

“Baseball players have an exceptionally tough season, often with daily demands on their bodies,” said Richard E. Otto, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Impact Cryotherapy. “The ability to recover quicker and play harder gives a player, and his team, an extraordinary advantage.”

In order for a Marlins player to use cryotherapy they will stand inside the Impact Cryotherapy’s patent-pending, octagonal-shaped chamber during treatment on an adjustable platform, while having their heads outside the chamber. The Impact Cryotherapy chamber is filled with nitrogen vapor, which drops the temperature to a range of (minus) – 120°C to -140°C and temporarily lowers the temperature of the skin’s top layer. Stints in the chamber will last no more than three minutes and once the player exits the chamber their body naturally begins to reheat.

Extreme cold is an age old treatment for inflammation and cryotherapy simply uses technology to improve upon traditional uses of applied ice or a full body ice bath. According to Impact Cryotherapy, the 1970s in Japan, cryotherapy treatments were used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and that spread to Europe, which developed the whole body cryotherapy systems in use today.

We fully expect to see many more teams and athletes adopt cryotherapy as a go-to tool to aid the recovery process and keep the body as fresh as possible throughout long seasons.

New Orlean Saints

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – The New Orleans Saints’ training camp is starting to resemble a set from a science-fiction movie, with players and coaches going into cryotherapy chambers and players watching film through virtual-reality headsets.

Those are among two innovations the Saints and other NFL teams are experimenting with this summer as they look for any edge they can get.

The cryotherapy chambers are the modern alternative to the classic ice bath. They only take three minutes and don’t come with the initial shock of climbing into a tub of ice-cold water.

Payton said he climbed in himself on Friday morning – though some Saints players like Akiem Hicks and C.J. Spiller said they still prefer the old-school method.

“Three minutes in there – and that’s not necessarily easy, but I would say it’s easier than sitting in a punch bowl,” said Payton, who added that the team has introduced inflatable pressurized wraps as another way to aid in recovery. “The key during camp, even during the season, I think, is just utilizing the technology to get the blood back in their legs. That can be transitioning from cold to hot, that can be in the cryo and that can be in the pressure wraps. All of those things we’re trying to take advantage of, especially during these training camp practices.”

The virtual-reality cameras are even more next-level. Payton said the Saints invited a company to bring them on the field for the first time Friday to record practices from a 360-degree angle.

The Saints are one of at least six NFL teams known to be trying out the new technology this summer, along with the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings, among possible others.

When players review the film, they can look left, right and even behind them to see everything happening on the field at any moment. It’s very close to the kind of simulator training Payton envisioned when he spoke at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference earlier this year.

Quarterback Luke McCown said he and Drew Brees were playing around with the headsets Thursday night – even getting a glimpse of what others see on the field.

"Drew put it on and he said, 'Line up like you're Zach Strief and pretend like you're blocking J.J. Watt,’” said McCown, who said the technology can benefit linebackers, safeties, tackles, ends and receivers as well as quarterbacks.

“It never ceases to amaze me what technology is bringing to our game,” McCown said. “You’re dealing with real bodies. You’re not dealing with digital images or Madden characters. So your spatial awareness is better in terms of seeing a linebacker drop or a safety rotate or how an angle on a particular route bends. So from that standpoint, the concept is very good. We’ll see where it goes from there.”

Floyd Mayweather

Floyd “Money” Mayweather has added a cool new aspect to his training regimen in preparation for his upcoming match with the equally famed, Manny Pacquiao, on May 2, 2015.  This box

ing match has been dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” so how each fighter trains for it is critical.  JM Siasat, of GMA Network referred to Mayweather’s addition to his training as a “high-tech freezing chamber,” but its technical term is “cryotherapy.”

Cryotherapy basically consists of a person exposing either parts of, or the entire body to, subzero temperatures for a short duration of time (usually 2-3 minutes) in order to decrease inflammation, pain and spasms in his/her body.

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You might ask why a person would expose themselves to subzero temperatures for any reason.  Think of it like this.  We use icepacks on bumps, bruises and sore muscles to decrease inflammation and pain.  In a way, this is localized cryotherapy.  Logically speaking, it makes sense, then, to subject our entire body to extreme cold temperatures all at once to achieve the same effect.

Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) was originally developed in Japan in 1978, and has been used for more than three decades in both Europe and Japan.  The US considers it to be non-invasive and non-medical, but a wellness modality nonetheless.  Cryotherapy is widely used for sports recovery treatment, and many US sports teams use it for post-game recovery.  Some athletes, such as Kobe Bryant, even have a cryochamber installed in their homes.

US Cryotherapy, as well as other cryotherapy companies, claim there are many benefits to its use.  It promotes faster recovery, invigorates the mind, improves sleep pattern, effective in chronic pain management, reduces stress and anxiety, and even promotes healthier skin.  The treatments have been proven safe as long as the client is properly dressed for treatment (protective clothing consists of dry cotton socks, underwear, and gloves).

What the treatment actually does is the real key to its success.  Cryotherapy causes the body to release endorphins, our body’s “natural high.”  These hormones are neurotransmitters that make the body feel good and energetic – a feeling that can last for days after only one session.  Any true athlete knows that enduring pain is just as much psychological as it is physical.  This euphoric feeling allows athletes to resume training almost immediately following treatment.   For Mayweather, whose training sessions are typically intensive, this is golden.  With fight night closing in, the likely thought process is that speedy recovery between trainings will allow Mayweather to be in his best shape ever to endure, and more importantly, win this fight.

Denver Broncos

The image looks fit for a sci-fi movie poster.

Malik Jackson, standing in a tube chamber that leaves only his head exposed, stares blankly as liquid nitrogen gas swirls around him. There are no cameras, though. And the scene has become part of a weekly routine for the Broncos defensive end and many of his teammates, including linebacker Von Miller, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster, and safeties Omar Bolden, T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart.

The whole-body cryotherapy craze took off in 2011, when the Dallas Mavericks, the second-oldest team in the NBA that season, credited the treatment for helping them win their first league championship.

Professional soccer and rugby players had long been using it in Europe and Asia, where it was first developed in 1978 to help treat arthritis and inflammatory diseases. But the use by professional athletes in the U.S. was in its infancy. Now LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to it regularly. Major League Baseball players have used it. Floyd Mayweather incorporated it in his training before his fight with Manny Pacquiao. Olympic sprinters Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin often take mobile cryotherapy units with them to races.

And the Broncos have joined the growing trend.

Call it an ice bath on steroids.

For 2½ to 3 minutes, the players stand in a full-body chamber wearing only shorts, gloves and socks as liquid nitrogen gas engulfs their limbs and torso at temperatures of minus-250 to minus-300 degrees Fahrenheit.

The treatment claims to rely on deception, lowering the temperature of the skin by 30 to 50 degrees to trick the brain into thinking the entire body is freezing. The mind game leads to a fight-or-flight response and the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, to help reduce soreness and inflammation.

Unlike traditional ice baths that require painful submersion in ice and water for about 15 minutes, cryotherapy sessions are said to be painless and more effective.

"We'll actually use it with a lot of the guys Sunday morning before they go to the stadium, so about three hours before kickoff we'll go through and use the cryotherapy on them because it cleans out any inflammation, soreness that they have, but it also kind of dumps endorphins back into the body," said Dr. Ryan Tuchscherer, a chiropractor and the co-founder of Cherry Creek Spine and Sport Clinic. "It really gets them amped up and ready to go, versus the old, traditional way of doing an ice bath or an ice tank."

This year, Tuchscherer, whose clinic is one of about 150 in the U.S. to house the $75,000 whole-body cryotherapy units, has worked with primarily defensive players from the Broncos, seeing them regularly during the season.

Some players use them for maintenance, after game days and practices. Others use them for recovery from specific injuries.

"With Aqib and his ankle injury, we'll use that to try to get it to speed up so we can get them back on the field quicker," Tuchscherer said. "It's cutting the recovery time down, usually in half from what it usually would be. You're seeing it a lot with the professional athletes."

But the research on whole-body cryotherapy, which is not Food and Drug Administration-approved, has offered mixed results.

A 2011 study in France found a reduction of inflammation in participants who entered the chamber before and after a run on a treadmill that was designed to create muscle damage and soreness. The study indicated that the runners' reduced inflammation could cut back on their recovery time.

But a 2015 review by Joseph Costello, a senior research associate at the University of Portsmouth in England, reported there was "insufficient evidence to determine whether whole-body cryotherapy reduces self-reported muscle soreness, or improves subjective recovery, after exercise" compared with rest or no cryotherapy in adult males.

"Is it 100 percent? It's not," Tuchscherer said.

But the Broncos, like many other professional athletes, believe in the benefits of whole-body cryotherapy.

"The professionals do it because that's their job," Tuchscherer said. "That's how they make their money, keeping their body healthy."

Nicki Jhabvala: njhabvala@denverpost.com

Georgia Bulldogs

Cryotherapy machines are the newest addition to Georgia's training facilities according to a statement released by UGA Athletics on Monday. The state-of-the-art equipment is essentially a shorter, more effective version of ice baths. According to the statement by UGA, it's a method used "worldwide" by athletes in a number of different fields to help repair after workouts and increase energy.

“Our student-athletes in all sports train extremely hard and recovery is a critical part of our overall program,” Ron Courson, UGA's Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine, said. “Whole body cooling is new technology which provides an outstanding recovery option. We are excited about the capabilities with this new technology for our student-athletes, not only just with recovery but with treatment and rehabilitation as well.”

The machines function by having an athlete stand on a platform in such a way inside a chamber that his head is sticking out. The temperature inside the chamber is then dropped to negative 120 to 140 degrees Celsius with nitrogen vapor. The treatment lasts a maximum of three minutes but the body reheats almost immediately after being removed from the chamber.

“For decades, ice baths have been the recovery therapy of choice forcollegiate and professional athletes,” said Richard E. Otto, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Impact Cryotherapy. “Rather than endure 20 minutes in a tub of ice water, they can spend three minutes in our whole body cryotherapy chamber to achieve better, faster results. Athletes love it!”

The addition of this new equipment comes on the heels of the approval for a $30.2 million indoor practice facility, an increase in the size of support staff, coaching staff salaries, and the overall football budget.

Alabama

A truck pulling a trailer backed into the loading dock outside Alabama's football locker room Monday morning. Round 1 of the final two-a-day was just wrapping up, and the pick-up brought help in a new form.

It was Donny Dockery and his cryotherapy chamber was hitched to the back of his truck. The concept has been used by athletes like LeBron James for a few years is being used by Alabama this August.

Inside the trailer is a one-person pod designed to help the players recover by freezing them faster than a popsicle. According to the Cryotherapy of Tuscaloosa website, a nitrogen mist "gently surrounds the body." Dockery said temperatures dip as low as -166 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Players gave it mixed reviews Monday and the verdict is still out for the physical therapy community.

"The science is not clear whether or not it is a game-changer," Dr. Trent Nessler, national sports medicine director for Physio Corp, told AL.com.

The idea is to help recovery time and reduce length of absences from injury.

"You know, I tried it one time," smiling Alabama linebacker Denzel Devall said. "I'm just old-fashioned, you know? Put me in the ice tub and I'm good to go. Cryotherapy does not... I like the ice tub, cold tub. That's me."

The therapy lasts 2-3 minutes and there are a few rules. You must be completely dry before entering. Gloves and socks must be worn. The idea is to lower the skin temperature from about 90.5 to 32 degrees.

Whether it's better than a traditional, Devall-style ice bath is still being debated.

"The science behind those is not as solid because there you're getting a whole-body temperature reduction," Nessler said. "It's not like an isolated whirlpool where you're sticking your leg in ... you're taking your whole body into that. A lot of the science that is typically referenced is typically the science that is associated with cryotherapy in general."

Devall said he stayed in the chamber for the full session, but a few teammates couldn't hang.

"Some guys go in there for, like, 45 seconds," center Ryan Kelly said. "You're supposed to go in there for a minute and a half, or three minutes, whatever. And some guys couldn't last 30 seconds."

Kelly made it two minutes. He knew when it was time to go.

"Some of the side-effects are you start getting light-headed," Kelly said. "So as soon as I started getting light-headed I walked out."

Adrenaline is released, Dockery said, along with endorphins. Effects last from six to eight hours, putting players in better shape for the 7:30 p.m. Monday practice after the first one ended a little before noon.

"As you know, in sports, it is also for the athlete's psyche," Nessler said. "And that, sometimes, can be just as powerful as what it does from a science perspective. If an athlete walks into there and sees something different, there's a little bit of a wow-factor and they get in saying 'it really did something for me' ... It's like the placebo effect."

For Alabama, it's another tool in the ongoing effort to gain an edge and help the recovery process.

"Coach Saban has placed a big emphasis on recovery from practice to practice, so our players can be at their best," Alabama head football trainer Jeff Allen said in a statement to AL.com. "We felt that it was another tool to utilize to help our guys perform every day. Whole body cryotherapy is a great technique to assist in recovery and help improve performance."

Dockery opened his business eight months ago and said it's going well so far. It's popular among cross-fit athletes and people coming off surgery dealing with swelling and inflammation. It doesn't come cheap, though. A single shot in the chamber costs $35 with packages of five for $150, eight for $230 and up to 20 for $425.

After purchasing the equipment, Dockery said he had a week and a half of training to get comfortable with running the unit.

"It's really getting used to the equipment and working with people and finding what's comfortable for them," he said.

But the old-school Devall is sticking with the traditional methods for now.

"I just feel like the cold tub gets me right, I guess," he said with a grin.

Los Angeles Lakers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- As the first team to have to go through a back-to-back-to-back in this lockout-shortened 66-game season, the Los Angeles Lakers partook in a unique team activity Monday to guard against the fatigue that the schedule has in store for them.

 

The Lakers visited a Sacramento-area cryotherapy clinic to experience intense cold therapy, a procedure that is growing in popularity in the world of professional sports and replacing the traditional ice bath.

Lakers players were split into groups of four and placed in a room that was approximately 60 degrees below Fahrenheit for one minute. Once their bodies got used to the cold climate, the players walked into an adjacent room where temperature was approximately 200 degrees below zero, where they were kept for three minutes before being released.

Desperate times call for desperate measures?

More like a sign of the times.

A popular manufacturer of the cold chamber products, MecoTec GmbH, is based out of Germany, the same country where Kobe Bryant traveled to in the offseason to receive an innovative plasma replacement procedure on his right knee. He later traveled back to Germany to receive a similar treatment on his left ankle, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Exposure to extreme cold is meant to decrease pain, swelling and inflammation in athletes' bodies, but there are not many places to access the therapy in the U.S.

"By the end of those three minutes, you're begging for that guy to give you the nod like, 'OK, your time's up,' " said Lakers forward Luke Walton. "I've heard about this thing just from researching it with stuff for my back and wanted to do it, so I had volunteered to do it either way. So I was going to go no matter what and they kind of made the whole team go."

The treatment did not help the results on the court Monday night as the Lakers lost to the Kings 100-91 to fall to 0-2 on the season, but it did have a positive effect on players' bodies.

"When I woke up (Monday) morning my back was pretty sore and it's been feeling good lately so I was kind of bummed that I wasn't going to be able to see if it was really working or not, but my back feels great right now," Walton said before the game. "It definitely works."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Dallas Mavericks

This story appears in the July 25, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

 

IF IT SEEMED THE OLDEST, MOST INFIRM among the Mavericks drank from a fountain of youth on their way to snatching this year's NBA title from younger, quicker hands, well, they didn't. Oh, the Mavs found something, all right. But it wasn't a fountain as much as a fog. And they didn't drink the rejuvenating potion; they bathed in it.

 

From late April right through to their final championship-clinching victory over the Heat, a sextet of Mavs -- Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler and Brian Cardinal -- made the 20-minute trek from American Airlines Center to a wellness facility in Plano, Texas, two times a week. The grizzled NBA vets, all of whom are 33 or older except for the 28-year-old Chandler, would head to an upstairs room that had all the warmth of a no-frills clinic. They would strip to their underwear and socks, don fleece gloves and, one at a time, step inside a six-foot-tall, padded blue-green silo that encased them up to their necks (or, in the case of the seven-footers, Nowitzki and Chandler, up to their chests). A large metal bin next to the silo would begin to whir, and smoky vapor would swirl out of the chamber, as if the players were being cooked in a cauldron.