Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) covers a wide range of therapeutic applications and consists of briefly exposing the body to extremely cold air. In sports medicine, WBC is used to improve recovery from muscle injury; however, empirical studies on its application to this area are lacking. To fill this gap, we compared changes in immunological parameters (C3, IgA, IgM, IgG, C-reactive protein, PGE2), cytokines (IL-2, IL-8, IL-10), adhesion molecules (sICAM-1), and muscle enzymes (creatine kinase [CK], lactate dehydrogenase [LAD]) before and after WBC in 10 top-level Italian National team rugby players. The subjects underwent five sessions on alternate days once daily for 1 week. During the study period, the training workload was the same as that of the previous weeks. Compared to baseline values, immunological parameters remained unchanged, while CK and LAD levels significantly decreased after treatment. No alterations in immunological function were observed but there is a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokine/chemokine and an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokine. As measured by changes in serum CK and LAD concentrations, and cytokines pathway, short-term cold air exposure was found to improve recovery from exercise-induced muscle injury and/or damage associated with intense physical training.
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