I continue to receive questions on how and why to ice the arm after pitching or throwing the baseball. There is a lot of people who are getting information that icing stops the healing process, so therefore it does not help in recovery. This information is incorrect in my book because I have some very good evidence to back this up and because I always seemed to pay the price when I do not ice after throwing a lot of pitches.
In my career icing always shortened my recovery time. I did continue to test this therapy though. Mainly because it is a pain in the butt to ice your arm after ever game and I also was a little curious as to why we do this.
If someone challenges your opinion on this argument, or you want a final answer, you need to look at the study that the American Journal of Sports Medicine has posted here on Cryotherapy on rats. I know we are not rats but muscularly we are similar.
To prevent your brain from exploding when reading this study I have posted my layman's explanation below. I hope this helps!
The American Journal of Sports Medicine states that Cryotherapy for 6 hours significantly restored diminished functional capillary density, markedly decreased elevated intramuscular pressure, reduced the number of adhering and invading granulocytes, and attenuated tissue damage. If this sounds Japanese to you then I have given you some definitions here that should help you understand the results.
- Cryotherapy – is the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy or the removal of heat from a body part.
- Intramuscular – within the muscle.
- Granulocytes – category of white blood cells. White blood cells fight bacteria and fungi in the body.
- Attenuated – reduced in strength.
Here is my explanation in layman's terms.
The healing process is generally broken into three stages: inflammation, proliferation, and repair. The problem is prolonged or intense inflammation can cause cellular damage. This is what icing will prevent from happening if you ice within 48 hours of the injury or overuse of the muscle. Icing will then prevent further damage of the soft muscle tissue so the healing process can continue with minimal damage. Therefore icing supports the healing process and does not inhibit it.
Before this article I also wrote an article in response to something that Dick Mill's posted on icing. He is probably the one who has started the roomer that icing is bad for healing. I suggest reading this article as well because it talks about Dr. Meeusen’s studies on prolonged icing. This is why I recommend icing for only 10-15 minutes at a time.
Why Pitchers should ICE their arms?
When the topic of icing comes up for pitchers, I often disagree with the response and think all the injuries associated with pitchers are closely related to events after pitching. If you do squats and your legs are sore the next day do you ice? No, you stretch and exercise. Icing only holds up the bodies natural way of healing. Icing is just a way of uneducated trainers to keep their jobs by giving this bad advice.
The findings of this study suggested that ice treatment with light shoulder exercise group was the optimal therapeutic measure against decreased shoulder strength or increased shoulder muscle soreness resulting from the repetitive baseball pitching.
No need to ice legs because they are big muscle groups that heal faster. The arm is made up of small muscle groups that take longer to recover.
Yanagisawa O1, Miyanaga Y, Shiraki H, Shimojo H, Mukai N, Niitsu M, Itai Y. – The effects of various therapeutic measures on shoulder strength and muscle soreness after baseball pitching. – J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003 Jun;43(2):189-201.