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BACKGROUND: Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is the therapeutic application of extreme cold air for a short duration. Minimal evidence is available for determining optimal exposure time. PURPOSE: To explore whether the length of WBC exposure induces differential changes in inflammatory markers, tissue oxygenation, skin and core temperature, thermal sensation and comfort. METHOD: This study was a randomised cross over design with participants acting as their own control. Fourteen male professional first team super league rugby players were exposed to 1, 2, and 3 minutes of WBC at -135 degrees C. Testing took place the day after a competitive league fixture, each exposure separated by seven days. RESULTS: No significant changes were found in the inflammatory cytokine interleukin six. Significant reductions (p<0.05) in deoxyhaemoglobin for gastrocnemius and vastus lateralis were found. In vastus lateralis significant reductions (p<0.05) in oxyhaemoglobin and tissue oxygenation index (p<0.05) were demonstrated. Significant reductions (p<0.05) in skin temperature were recorded. No significant changes were recorded in core temperature. Significant reductions (p<0.05) in thermal sensation and comfort were recorded. CONCLUSION: Three brief exposures to WBC separated by 1 week are not sufficient to induce physiological changes in IL-6 or core temperature. There are however significant changes in tissue oxyhaemoglobin, deoxyhaemoglobin, tissue oxygenation index, skin temperature and thermal sensation. We conclude that a 2 minute WBC exposure was the optimum exposure length at temperatures of -135 degrees C and could be applied as the basis for future studies.

Selfe, J, Alexander, J, Costello, JT, May, K, Garratt, N, Atkins, S, . . . Richards, J. (2014) “The effect of three different (-135 degrees C) whole body cryotherapy exposure durations on elite rugby league players”. PLoS One 9 (1) e86420.

Full Article : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24489726