An Evaluation of the Effects of Whole Body Cryotherapy Treatment for Sports Recovery and Performance

  • Adnan Haq

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Whilst Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) has become an emerging tool for sport and exercise recovery, its overall efficacy remains contentious. This thesis addressed a variety of issues concerning the practice.

Firstly, the impact of single WBC interventions for treating exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) is unclear. Secondly, the influence of inter-individual factors on WBC outcomes post-exercise remains an under-investigated area. Therefore the first main study explored the effects of age and body fat content on responses to WBC following downhill running, a commonly utilised eccentric exercise model for inducing muscle damage. WBC participants underwent cryotherapy (3 minutes, −120°C) one hour post-downhill run and control (CON) participants passively recovered (20°C). Despite the presence of EIMD, WBC significantly blunted (p=0.04) the decrease in muscle torque 24 hours after the downhill run. This response was significantly influenced by age, with young participants (<40 years) retaining their muscle strength more than older participants (≥45 years). WBC may therefore attenuate EIMD and benefit muscle strength recovery following eccentrically biased exercise, particularly for young males.

A subsequent downhill run study investigated the influence of WBC timing post-exercise, a factor that could clarify optimal treatment usage. An additional objective was to compare the effects of WBC with cold water immersions (CWI) since the verdict regarding which cold modality is superior for recovery remains an on-going area of controversy. It was revealed that WBC 4 hours post-exercise was ineffective in treating EIMD markers, so applying WBC within one hour after exercise may be preferable to delaying by several hours. However, WBC was no more effective than CWI, meaning that the cost vs. reward implications of WBC treatments would need further reviewing.

Finally, the implications of repetitive WBC during training programmes require further evaluation due to the possibility of repetitive cold interfering with long term adaptations. The final study investigated the impact of two weekly WBC treatments on adaptations to a 6 week strength and endurance training programme. It was found that WBC participants significantly improved their muscle strength comparatively to the CON group. However WBC did not improve their jump height (p=0.23) in contrast to the CON group (p=0.01). In conclusion, repetitive WBC does not appear to blunt strength training adaptations, although there may be an interference effect in the development of explosive power.
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorTony Kay (Supervisor), William Ribbans (Supervisor) & Anthony Baross (Supervisor)


  • Whole Body Cryostimulation
  • Cold
  • Exercise
  • Muscle Damage
  • Eccentric
  • Training

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