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Emily’s Football Focus - To ice or not to ice?

Footballers are no strangers to the effects of training and matches and the toll that these can take on the body afterwards, so often will look for any methods to help the recovery process after this. One of these being the use of ice (cryotherapy for a fancy term). I’m sure many of us have seen premier league players coming off the pitch and putting a bag of ice straight on or even pictures of them in an actual ice bath! This article will explore a little bit about the use of cryotherapy in football, including the various techniques and benefits it offers recovery and injury management.

Different Ways to Use Ice

There are several ways in which we can apply ice to the body, some of which being a lot easier and more readily available to players at every level:

  • Ice packs or ice bags - easily accessible and can be applied directly onto the injured or sore area. Thought to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Ice baths - whole body cold water immersion - thought to reduce inflammation and alleviate muscle soreness

  • Game ready machines - a specialised machine that combines cryotherapy with compression using a cuff/sleeve to target specific joints

  • Cryotherapy chambers - temperatures in these specialised chambers typically range from -110 to -160 degrees celsius, and players will be in the chamber for a short bout of 2-4 minutes. This is thought to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms to help promote recovery

Proposed Benefits of Cryotherapy

For footballers, using ice has been proposed to have several benefits for promoting recovery and injury management. Here are some of them and the reasons behind them:

  • Pain relief

  • Applying ice will essentially help to numb pain receptors in the body which will provide temporary relief from pain associated with acute injuries or overuse.

  • Reduced inflammation 

  • Ice will constrict (narrow) the blood vessels, which will in turn limit blood flow to the area - leading to a reduction in inflammation, swelling and bruising.

  • Muscle recovery and reduced soreness

  • May help to reduce muscle soreness post-exercise and promote muscle recovery for the next game or session.

  • Improved recovery

  • Can help players to maintain optimal performance by helping to reduce the effects of fatigue and promoting good recovery between matches and training session.

Are There any Cons of Using Ice?

Whilst the benefits have been outlined above, there are some things to keep in mind before using cryotherapy in the football context. Interestingly, it can delay the body’s natural inflammatory response, a vital part of the healing process of injury. Reducing inflammation may help provide pain relief in the first instance but may actually delay the repair of injured tissue and therefore recovery time. Consequently, it is important that the use of ice is appropriate for your specific injury or issue to ensure that no harm is being done in the pursuit of benefits!

A sports therapist can help you to figure out the most appropriate use of cryotherapy for your body and specific injuries. They can provide advice on how to safely apply these techniques and how/when to implement them to get the most benefits!

Here at SV Sports Therapy, we can help footballers and athletes to advise them on the available recovery techniques from specific injuries or general exercise recovery. Not only do we treat and manage injuries, but we can also help to prevent them!

Give us a call to book in with Emily on 020 3494 4343 or email or you can also book online here. We would love to serve you!


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