Are athletes approaching the end of the ice age?
Sports coaches and trainers may soon be pulling the plug on
athletes' ice baths in the off-season after new findings by The University of Queensland and
Queensland University of Technology.
Roberts of UQ's School of Human Movement and
Nutrition Sciences and Dr Jonathan Peake from QUT collaborated
with the Queensland Academy of Sport for a
report into the widespread practice.
While Dr Roberts' previous findings showed that cold water
immersion may provide some short-term benefits to an athlete's
recovery, the latest investigation revealed large reductions of
long-term strength and muscle growth.
"This investigation offers the strongest evidence to date that
using cold water immersion on a regular basis may interfere with
strength training adaptations," Dr Roberts said.
"Other studies alluded to potentially negative impacts, but this
is the first comprehensive report.
"Cold water immersion was found to delay or inhibit satellite
cell activity and suppressed the activation of an important enzyme
after acute strength exercise.
"These effects may have been compounded over time to diminish
expected increases in muscle mass and strength, despite the
Ice baths have been a staple recovery method for many of the
world's most famous athletes -such as Floyd Mayweather, Usain
Bolt and Cristiano Ronaldo -and endorsed by Hollywood
In Australia the major football codes, in particular, are all
avid users of the practice.
Dr Roberts' study included two trials, one involving 24
physically active men over a 12-week period and another that
measured 10 active men after two bouts of single-leg exercises.
Researchers in Auckland and Norway also contributed to the
findings of the Queensland universities.
"This has implications for any sport where strength is
important, from powerlifting to gymnastics," Dr Roberts said.
"In one study the number of myonuclei per muscle fibre and the
size of the fibres was shown to increase significantly more for a
group using active recovery, but not at all for the group using
cold water immersion.
"We were surprised by the magnitude of the detrimental
While Dr Roberts warned against the use of ice baths for those
desiring greater strength or muscle growth, he said they could be
used in select periods where recovery took precedence over
Dr Roberts and Dr Peake plan to investigate whether
post-exercise heating impacts positively or negatively on similar
Media: Dr Llion Roberts +617 0416 686 660, firstname.lastname@example.org
or UQ Communications Robert Burgin +617 3346
3035, +61 0448 410 364, email@example.com