Cryotherapy, such as icing and cold water immersion, is a common tool that is used for many reasons, but especially after an injury has occurred. Cryotherapy, however, is beneficial following training, even when an injury like a sprained ankle or swelling are not present. Research by Santos et al. found that in Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners, icing after their training decreased damage markers to their muscles.1 As part of their study, the researchers measured creatine phosphokinase (CPK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), pain, and the upper body strength of jiu-jitsu practitioners before and after icing.1
Some muscle damage following exercise is normal, and the remodeling of those muscles allows for muscle growth.1 The soreness one feels after a hard bout of exercise is associated with that muscle damage and termed delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).1 Higher levels of CPK and LDH are associated with muscle damage following exercise and potentially can impact the ability of those muscle to perform during training and competitions.1 For these reasons, the speed of recovery is very important for jiu-jitsu practitioners, especially when preparing for a tournament.
Following a jiu-jitsu class and free rolling, Santos et al, had the practitioners use an ice bath at 41 degrees Fahrenheit for 19 minutes (four cycles of four minute emersions with one minute rests between sets) immediately following training. The day following their ice bath, CPK, LDH, pain levels and upper body strength were all re-assessed. CPK and LDH levels were lower, there was less pain, and the upper body strength did not decrease as much as those who did not use an ice bath. The results of this study demonstrate that there is benefit of potentially faster recovery using cryotherapy following intense training, especially when training is frequent. While it may be difficult to replicate this study, a cool shower or submersion in a pool may provide some benefit following intense training.
- Santos WOC, Brito CJ, Junior EAP, et al. Cryotherapy post-training reduces muscle damage markers in jiu-jitsu fighters. Journal of Human Sport & Exercise 2012;7:629-638.