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It May Pay to Ice before You Play

Icing is one of the main treatments for injured or sore joints. Athletes ice their sprains and strains after training, after competition, and after rehabilitation exercises. But could icing be useful to these athletes before training, competition, and rehabilitation? The experts disagree. Some think icing before exercise makes athletes more likely to injure a joint. Others think the healing benefits of icing can help muscles and joints perform better.

This research added some data to the debate. The authors targeted the soleus muscle, the deeper of the two calf muscles. Thirty healthy volunteers were tested for nerve reaction and strength in the soleus. Then 15 of the volunteers iced their ankles for 30 minutes, similar to the way a sprained ankle would be iced. All of the volunteers repeated the tests after 30, 60, and 90 minutes. Skin temperatures were also recorded.

The results showed that icing improved muscle strength and nerve reaction. The volunteers who iced their ankles had better results after icing, and they also had better results than the control group. This data suggests that icing would improve joint and muscle function. The authors note that they don't know how exactly the icing affects the joints. They also warn that results might be different in other muscles of the ankle and in other joints.

J. Ty Hopkins, PhD, ATC, and Rhonda Stencil, MS, ATC. Ankle Cryotherapy Facilitates Soleus Function. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. December 2002. Vol. 32. No. 12. Pp. 622-627.

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