Imagine an athlete rushing off the court or field after sustaining an injury. A minor muscle pull, sprain, or strain will likely be treated with ice. It is not uncommon, after icing, for athletes to return to the game right away, feeling well enough to continue play.
Unfortunately, that may not be the smartest action to take in the moment.
A recent study tracked thirty-five earlier trials with a mean sample size of nineteen. The average time used for icing was approximately twenty minutes with the participants in each trial being otherwise healthy and who had not sustained any real injury.
Seventy-five percent of the participants reported slight loss of strength immediately after cooling. Six of the thirty-five studies also noted that participants had slowed movement for several moments afterward, which was improved after muscles had warmed back up again. It was seen in some cases that there was a temporary loss of dexterity and accuracy as well.
While the variances in movement and ability were short lived and minor, there is still evidence that returning to play immediately after icing may not be the best bet for athletes. Instead, the muscles should be allowed time to be re-warmed before taking back to the field or court.
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