Jury is out on cold water immersion prior to or during exercise

There has been a growing trend to cold water immersion prior to exercise. Studies on the effect of cold water immersion or cryotherapy, prior to or during exercise, on EMG activity of muscles have been divergent, with some studies showing negative effects. One study, reported concerns about the return to exercise after cooling and advised careful use of cryotherapy before activities that demand good sensory-motor control in order to protect the physical integrity of the athlete.

A study1  in the latest Journal of Sports Sciences found that cold water immersion prior to vertical jumping decreased EMG response and flight time for up to 30 minutes.

Cryotherapy in sports appears to be often used indiscriminately and uncontrollably and this study indicates the need for caution in performing physical activities immediately after cryotherapy due to short-term changes in muscle response. “Therefore, cold water immersion should not be used prior to rehabilitation or sports activities that demand great muscular or balance activity.”

  1. Cold-water immersion alters muscle recruitment and balance of basketball players during vertical jump landing
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