Athletes Are Freezing Their Muscles To Perform Better And It's Working

by Adam Silvers

Three minutes.

That's all it takes for LeBron James to go from feeling like he's just been run over by a Mack truck to being ready to take the court for another late spring playoff game.

How, you ask?

The answer is cryotherapy, which is increasingly becoming the most popular and apparently, effective, recovery method in sports.

First introduced in the 1970s by Japanese physician Dr. Toshima Yamauchi to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other physical ailments, modern whole body cryotherapy is a two to three-minute treatment in which patients stand in a freezing chamber cooled by liquid nitrogen.

If this isn't sports science on fleek, I don't know what is.

Once inside the cryosauna, the liquid nitrogen reportedly brings the open-topped chamber to anywhere from -200 to -330 degrees Fahrenheit.

Memphis Grizz point guard Russ Smith may be young, but he already knows the secret to a long NBA career.

Cryotherapy at -250 F. Or, or as Russ Smith would call it, "the FREEZER"! See full vid at — Jordan Adams (@jordanadams1231) July 3, 2015

According to benefits listed on the website of KryoLife, an NYC-based cryotherapy treatment center, the instant results of the freeze include reduced inflammation, muscle soreness and tension, as well as an increase in energy.

A single three-minute session at KryoLife will run you $90, so I head to the Sports Club for 15 minutes in the sauna followed by a cold shower, instead.

But if the results are to be believed, it's no wonder that the likes of LeBron James, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Cristiano Ronaldo are consistently using cryotherapy to stay at peak condition.

Hell, Ronaldo even opted to install his own private chamber in his house.

It's easy enough to understand, though, right?

Athletes have been using ice baths to recover from injury and soreness for as long as anyone can remember, but that process usually takes about 30 minutes to complete and is pretty one-dimensional.

Cryotherapy, which uses no water at all, takes just 180 seconds and has benefits that go well beyond dealing with soreness and inflammation.

The extreme cold an athlete feels inside the chamber forces the body to go into survival mode, which forces the blood supply to move to the most critical organs in order to transport oxygen and nutrients.

Dr. Jennifer Solomon, a sports medicine physiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, told,

The whole idea of hot and cold is removing the toxins and allowing blood that doesn't have those toxins or those inflammatory components into that area.

Basically, after leaving the cryosauna and performing a recommended 10- to 15-minute warmup to get the body moving again, one actually has cleaner blood pumping through the body.

Call me crazy, but combining this multi-faceted recovery method with the talents of the best basketball player, boxer and soccer star on the planet seems like a recipe not just for success, but complete domination.

Ben Famiglietti, a 43-year-old New York native -- and someone who clearly has more money than me -- described the experience to Fox News, saying,

The first thing you notice is the enormous rush of endorphins and energy afterwards, and that high lasts like five or six hours. You also have a little bit more mental focus, I find, and it's like taking 16 cups of coffee with none of the side effects.


Not only do the biggest athletes in the game put their bodies on the line during competitions, they also have to deal with the rigors of frequent air travel and hotel stays.

And in 2015, it's not just individuals who are turning to this practice; entire teams are installing some form of cryotherapy chamber at their facilities.

This month, Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins added a whole body cryotherapy chamber to Marlins Park, and the Phoenix Suns appear to have had a cryosauna in place for a few years.

The Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies have clearly become cryo converts.

Negative 257 degrees? No problem for @iAmSJ during his cryotherapy recovery #DetroitGrind — Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) July 7, 2015
.@MrVinceCarter15 took a few of his teammates to get cryotherapy w temps as low as -260 degrees F #ThatsColdIceCold — Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 2, 2015

And the Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Wilson and UFC fighter Johnny Hendricks are all about that cryo game as well.

Still not a believer?

World's fastest man, Usain Bolt, turned to cryotherapy after suffering a back injury at the 2012 London Olympics; Kobe Bryant has been doing it for years -- obviously -- and former Mavericks guard Jason Terry got his freeze on during Dallas' championship run in 2011.

Terry said,

It gives you youthfulness, and if you have any aches and pains, instantly when you step out of the chamber, you're revived.

Kind of hard to argue with results.

In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, cryotherapy also jacks up your metabolism, allowing users to burn up to 800 calories in the five- to eight-hour period following the three-minute session.

It's easy to see why Daniel Craig used cryotherapy to get his body ready to play James Bond in "Skyfall," and Demi Moore has been using the treatment for years in an effort to slow the aging process (definitely looks like that's going well).

The business of sports is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so it's no surprise athletes are willing to do anything they can to stay ahead of the competition.

Players will literally do anything to win, as well as protect their bodies, and you better believe that includes subjecting themselves to three minutes of arctic temperatures, wearing nothing but underwear, socks and mittens.

LeBron didn't win a third championship ring this season, but he came awfully close, despite having to play the role of five players during the NBA Finals.

You could make the case that his most dependable teammate was cryotherapy.

Citations: KRYOLiFE (KryoLife), u2018Cryotherapyu2019 freezing treatment may heal injuries, slow signs of aging (subzero recovery), FAQs (subzero cryotherapy), Bone-Chilling Cryotherapy Relieves Pain (Underground Health Reporter)