Icing after a baseball game is an often-used recovery or injury rehabilitation practice for pitchers.
However, recent research conducted by Electronic Waveform Lab shows that icing damaged tissue after exercise does not improve recovery and can actually delay the healing process.
40 years ago, Dr. Gabe Mirkin coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to treat acute sports injuries. In 2014, nearly 40 years later, Dr. Mirkin retracted his statements stating, “Subsequent research shows that rest and ice can actually delay recovery.”
Why Does Ice Do More Damage Than Good?
Inflammation is a natural, necessary response to the tissue damage that results from pitching in a baseball game. Due to the inflammation, blood vessels dilate, and the damaged tissue receives an influx of nutrients and cells that begin the process of tissue repair.
This process is necessary for the tissue to remodel and prepare for the future stresses involved in pitching. While icing may decrease pain in the short term, it can actually do more harm than good, as it slows down the recovery process.
Active Recovery: An Alternative To Ice
As part of his 2014 retraction of RICE protocol, Dr. Gabe Mirkin reported, “Mild movements help tissue to heal and the application of cold suppresses the immune responses that start and hasten recovery.”
One of the best alternatives to using ice is active recovery — including low-intensity muscle activation techniques. The goal is to find practical active recovery and loading methods that won’t aggravate the tissue or cause additional damage.
Try to activate the muscles to achieve the largest amount of pain-free, low-stress, and non-fatiguing muscle activation. This technique can act as a “pump” to remove excess waste products from the area and facilitate the release of proteins that accelerate recovery.
If you need in-depth injury rehabilitation or performance physical therapy techniques in Chevy Chase, our team of experienced physical therapists can help!