“Put some ice on it,” will be said by almost every coach after one of their athletes goes through some sort of pain when participating in his/her sport. Icing an injury has become synonymous with treating a muscle strain, that it has almost become a catch phrase for athletic trainers. Although this may have been acceptable throughout most of our lives when treating an injury, new studies have shown that icing an injury in the long run might be pointless and have no real effect on speeding up recovery time and actually healing the muscle. Mind you, this is still a study being done and has not been fully proven. So before anyone decides to neglect icing as a whole, it is important to educate yourself on the situation before jumping to extreme measures.
This ongoing debate in whether to ice or heat sports injuries has caused many to consider experimentation to solve whether or not this is true. Australian researchers have conducted a recent experiment on rats with muscle contusions (muscle bruises), where there is two groups. One group of rats would receive no icing while the other received icing on the affected area within five minutes of the injury for a total of 20 minutes. Similar to a common strain, the contusions on the rats were a comparable injury one may receive while playing a sport. Within the first three days of the experiment, the group receiving the ice had lower inflammatory cells and higher blood vessel regeneration. However, during the early stages in repairing the injury (first seven days) it was shown that group icing the injury had more inflammatory cells and fewer new blood vessels forming. This results in less muscle fibers regenerating and therefore remained unhelpful for the rest of the month after the injury.
These new findings have not undergone human testing just yet but helps in giving us insight that inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Icing may lessen the pain in the beginning, but will delay the process in regenerating muscle fibers and completely healing the muscle. Whereas if icing was neglected, the inflammation would have stayed, playing an important process in tissue regeneration. These new discoveries will only help the muscle healing process and can open up an athlete’s eyes to new and fast ways toward recovery. For now, it is recommended to continue to ice an injury, but stay tuned as improvements may be made for the future of sports medicine.