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News - Science throws cold water over sports theory!

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I have often wondered what the reasons for sports men and women are for wanting to go through with a process of dunking themselves in cold water after an event is. However, I must admit that I have not really given it a lot of thought other than to assume it is a way in which either those involved want to show how 'hard' they are or how committed they are to the sport they love. Either way I don't get it! I may be missing something here; Let me know via the discussion board.

We, as Physiotherapists like sports scientists always speak about the need to stretch muscles before strenuous activity. We have believed this because stretching can prepare the muscle for the impending explosive physical activity in which muscles may be exerted beyond their normal daily levels of activity. It isn't rocket science to want to do this, however, we tend to neglect the need to 'warm down' after the activity during which we assist in getting rid of the by-product of muscular activity (lactic acid). Although there is emerging discussions that this may not be strictly true ( Scientific American Journal ). In order to do this we assume that we would require good circulation. No here lies the confusion....In order to get improved circulation there is a need to increase the size of the 'plumbing' to deliver the blood to transport nutrients and assist in repair of tissue. I do not see how the dunking in cold water helps this process!

Physiotherapists use ice/cold therapy to reduce the flow of circulation in instances of acute injury and inflammatory process caused by injury.this makes good sense. Equally I understand, for example, the need to keep transplant organs in ice to maintain the organ integrity. I also understand the research going on about reducing the body temperature to reduce the oxygen demand of the body during a stroke or heart attack ( The New England Journal of Medicine ) but I don't get it when there appears to be the need to reduce body temperature when trying to assist in the recovery process in muscles after natural muscle fatigue following natural activity.

It is not possible to provide unbiased critique of the research conducted at Portsmouth University without seeing the details of the study and pouring over its methodology but my instincts favour the results. The Researchers do acknowledge that more work needs to be done to provide evidence either way but then we start to get to the good old fashioned argument about statistics and what they mean in the grand scheme of things. I for one however will continue to believe that a gentle warm down after physical exertion is effective but also believe that it is will always prove to be more pleasurable!

© Dr A. A. Aluko, November 2012

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