Freezer “Cryotherapy” Chambers: Beneficial to Athletes?


Some athletes are taking “cold” to a whole new level with the use of whole-body cryotherapy chambers, where the temperature is lowered to minus 166 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 110 Celsius).  It dwarfs common forms of cryotherapy–for example, placing an ice pack on a bruise– that are commonly used in sports as well as everyday life.

Elite and recreational athletes alike brave these extreme temperatures, which are colder than any ever recorded on Earth, in hopes of speedy recoveries after grueling workouts. Frostbite is a real threat in these freezing chambers, and athletes must wear a hat, gloves, a face mask, and socks during the two to three-minute immersion. All clothing must be completely dry, otherwise it will immediately freeze to the body.

The New York Times analyzes cryotherapy to find out whether or not this extreme procedure is actually beneficial to athletes. The results are surprisingly inconclusive:

“A 2007 study of ice baths found that young men who completed a punishing 90-minute shuttle run and then eased themselves into a frigid bathtub (with the water cooled to 50 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes reported feeling markedly less sore a few days later than a control group who did not soak. But ice baths did not lower the runners’ level of creatine kinase, often considered a hallmark of muscle damage. They felt better, but their muscles were almost as damaged as if they hadn’t soaked.”

However, another study that specifically addresses cryotherapy chambers did find that there were some benefits to low-temperature exposure once a day for several days after a strenuous workout. This study suggests that athletes could potentially “save two to three days” of recovery before returning to an intense training schedule.

While cryotherapy may be beneficial to athletes, it also comes with a very high risk of frostbite and loss of blood circulation. Those who choose to partake in this frigid exercise must be completely dry, wave their arms and move their legs constantly while they are in the chamber, and not remain in the freezing temperatures for more than a few minutes.

As a former college athlete and hater of the cold, it’s surprising to me that anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to such extreme temperatures, even to improve athletic performance. But the popularity of cryotherapy chambers is on the rise, and one targeted to recreational athletes recently opened in Northern California. Be on the lookout for a freezing chamber at a gym near you.

What do you think of this strange new trend?

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Photo from Brighton photographer via flickr


Denis S.
Denis S.6 years ago

Please check out this link
You will see ESPN the Magazine article about Mavericks using cryosauna through the playoffs, interviews with the players, Dr.Oz recommendations, endorsements from the guys like football coach Tom Shaw and mentioned earlier Salazar.
The cryosauna is a new generation of the equipment for the whole body cryotherapy. Please check out the videos, it is a no "voodoo-science" simple idea to stimulate immune, endocrine systems as well as blood circulation by giving your body a mild shock. It is much easier to use than the one described in the article, it's safer, no need to wear bunch of clothes and yet the temperatures are up to negative -300 F. We have one of those at the ROCK INSTITUTE, Newport Beach, Southern California. So far all the athletes that tried it - loved it. Mark Langston, former Anaheim Angel, comes to our cryosauna couple times a week to cool off his beat up body. There are a lot of people out there that could not take an ice bath, but needed it. It's a tough thing to accomplish. Cryosauna on the other hand is way easier to handle and it has so many more benefits that ice bath does not.

Mark R.
Mark R.6 years ago

This article is very broad. Cryotherapy has many benefits, aside from just high-performance athletes. However, High-performance athletes will receive more benefits from this recovery technique. The research is solid, and I personally have benefited greatly from this recovery technique. I have been able to perform at extremely higher levels than before.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

Talk about overkill and wasting money!

David B. C.
David Cox6 years ago

...colder than any ever recorded on earth. Where is this going on if not on the planet earth?

Kamryn M.
Kay M6 years ago


Thom Loveless
Thom Loveless6 years ago

There is proper science behind this, something the writer didn't bother to investigate but it is a specialist technique only useful for serious professionals at the very top of their game. It helps runners to recover quickly and fit in extra training sessions during the same day. Three long runs within six hours, rather than two say. Obviously only for the very serious athlete and each session must be conducted under medical supervision. This is not for a public gym, in fact it is dangerous for recreational runners.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak6 years ago

I will wait for the popsicles that are flavored.

Karen & Edward O.
Karen and Ed O6 years ago

I'm with you Mary L. I thought this article was going to turn into some kind of joke, but, alas, no. What do I think of this strange new trend? I group it together with oxygen bars and Q-ray ionization bracelets.

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago


Berny P.
berny p6 years ago