Sport Team and Training Camp use
Without doubt the most experienced users of WBC from the western world include Rugby Union teams from Ireland, Wales and club teams from the English Premiership as well as the national Italian Rugby squad. Since 2001 players, in particular from Ireland and Wales Rugby, have been travelling to a training camp in Spala, Poland where WBC has been used as part of their programme to assist in recovery between the very demanding training units that they engage in during these ‘overreaching’ physical training camps (Hennessy et al 2005).
The key point here is that WBC is used as a micro recovery strategy within this very demanding training schedule. One leading rugby player recently commented that at the start of the very intense week’s training he thought: ‘’this couldn’t work’’. By the end of the training week which was very demanding (including 2 units of physical conditioning each day for 7 days) but included WBC he noted that you could not get through the volume of training completed without the use of WBC.
Indeed several other athletes and teams have since used training centres in Poland where WBC is available and in general all report very positive benefits (physical, psychological and team related) as a result of training at these special training centre which use cryotherapy as a key recovery modality between intense training units. Further, several sport teams are considering building their own WBC centres at their regular training bases .

‘’Wales will have a cryotherapy chamber built at their training base outside Cardiff in time for next year’s Six Nations Championship.

The players have been using cryotherapy in their training camps in Poland and the recovery technique has helped them become one of the fittest teams in world rugby. But from the start of next year the chambers – infamously unpleasant and unpopular with the players – will be permanently on hand at their training base.’’

In addition, several leading players and athletes have all used WBC as part of their programme in preparation for major competition with players from leading European soccer teams now using WBC as a standard recovery modality. Recently reports cite double Olympic Gold medal winner Mo Farah as one regular user of WBC in his programme (www.cryolabsports.co.uk/news.php.). For more on the team and athletes who use this modality please visit the following site: http://www.cryolabsports.co.uk.

How WBC is used.
Wearing only shorts, socks, body top (for females) gloves and an optional face mask the body is exposed to temperatures of less than -110o C for a period between 1.5 minutes and 3 minutes. The skin surface temperature can reduce to a temperature of about 5o C in this short period with core temperature remaining around its normal 36 – 37.2o C range (Papenfus 2006). Typically, the individual enters the small cabin like structure which can hold between 2 and 6 individuals (at any one occasion). The air is cooled by any one of the following methods:
  1. Liquid nitrogen
  2. Liquid air
  3. Cooled air
Following this WBC exposure the players then complete a short exercise routine which is intended to re-establish a normal physical condition.
What are the proposed benefits?
Papenfus (2006) lists the following benefits of WBC:
  • Pain relief
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Muscle relaxation
Specifically Papenfus outlines the following benefits for the sportsperson as follows:
  • Greater muscular resistance to fatigue
  • Faster muscle recovery following exercise
  • Greater muscular performance
  • Conservation of energy for muscular efforts
  • Improved hormonal profile
  • Better psychological stability
  • Improved ability to recover from injuries
Is there evidence for such proposed benefits to the sportsperson?
Research into the effects of WBC and PBC is really in its infancy. At a 2006 British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine meeting, only limited research was presented to outline the possible benefits of WBC. Since the original WBC unit of Yamauchi in the late 1970’s however, research has been mainly in Eastern Europe and as such western scientists tend to be sceptical of the findings from case studies and note the lack of control groups as a major flaw in the research design. Nevertheless, several centres in Poland, Germany and now France in particular have completed interesting and well-designed research in the area.

Interestingly following a period of scepticism within the western world towards the purported benefits of WBC as described in the limited literature, there is now a greater acceptance of its potential and its benefits. For example, at a recent football symposium on Recovery, Christophe Hausswirth working at the national training centre (INSEP) in Paris, France highlighted the important role that WBC and PBC has on recovery and also highlighted the positive adaptations in well-trained athletes (Hausswirth 2013). This marks an interesting stage where over the intervening 7 years since the first pronouncements from BASES in 2006, much peer-reviewed research has now been completed using WBC and PBC.


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