There is a lot of controversy around why pitchers ice arm post game. After surgery I was very strict when it came to icing post game. I know that it isn’t enough for me here to just say that, “Hey, I did it, so you should too.” So, I took some time to research the web and I found several websites reference the work of Dr. Meeusen from Antwerp, where I played some professional baseball. He based his life study around icing as a means to help heal a damaged muscle. His documentation describes how ice can be effective and where it can cause problems.
I understand you will get many different sides to the icing debate but I have yet to find research that has proven it to be bad. More of the research shows it to be inconclusive when it comes to determining the effects on healing.
In this article, I will give you some research that supports why pitchers ice arm or use cryotherapy for supporting the healing process. I will also give you a program that will help develop a more durable pitcher how will heal faster than just relying on ice.
Research by Dr. Meeusen on Why Pitchers Ice Arm
When body tissues are cooled, nerve cells in the chilled area initially force adjacent blood vessels to constrict, leading to a marked reduction in blood flow to that part of the body. However, if the temperature of the affected area continues to drop, nerve activity is depressed and the blood vessels begin to open up, flooding the injured tissues with blood, even though cold is still being applied. This flood-of-blood (Hunting effect) is the human body’s reflex reaction to thwart severe cold injury in a body part subjected to chilling stress.
Dr. Meeusen’s studies showed that icing initially stops the swelling and blood flow of the damaged blood vessels into the local muscle tissue but after a period of 10 minutes it can begin to have an opposite effect to the area. His documentation continues to state this damage continues on to another important system of healing.
Lymphatic Vessels: Prolonged ice application can cause lymphatic vessels (which ordinarily help carry excess tissue fluids back into the cardiovascular system) to increase in permeability. This causes large amounts of fluid to pour from the lymphatics “the wrong way” into the injured area, increasing local swelling and pressure, potentially contributing to greater pain. If icing goes on too long, the lymphatic vessels can actually be nearly obliterated, losing all of their fluid to surrounding tissues.
The lesson here is NOT that icing is bad. What we have learned is that icing is effective initially but begins to cause problems after about 10 minutes. Read the description below for the proper way to pitchers ice arm after a game to help aid the healing process.
Ice the elbow or shoulder region for 10 minutes immediately after pitching (DO NOT PUT ICE ON ULNAR NEVER), remove the ice for about 30 minutes, and then reapply it for 10 additional minutes. Repeat this cycle of about two 10-minute icings per hour as often as desired, based on how many pitches thrown, during the first 24 to 48 hours after pitching.
I also recommend that you use a heavy bag of icing. A little bag of ice will not cool off the area enough. You can put a towel on your arm to prevent freezer burn but try to use a bag of ice that almost hurts it is so cold. I also recommend taking a cold shower instead of a warm or hot shower post game for the same healing benefits of icing.
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