Recovery protocols including cold water immersion (CWI) and whole-body cryotherapy (WBC), are to minimise the impact of symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD) after damaging exercise. This thesis aimed to systemically review the current body of knowledge on the efficacy of WBC as a recovery tool after EIMD; investigate the effect of a single 3min WBC or CWI exposure on peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) redistribution; and assess the effectiveness of WBC as a recovery treatment in comparison to CWI, after eccentric exercise. It is hypothesised that WBC may enhance the beneficial effects of cold recovery treatments that reduce the time take to recover from symptoms of EIMD. Mobilisation of immune cells required for recovery may be influenced by the colder temperatures of WBC is hypothesised to assist in athlete’s recovery.
A systematic review on the literature (Chapter Two) found that despite methodological variations within studies, WBC reduced pain and improved muscle function after EIMD, with small, but significant, improvements in some markers of inflammation and muscle damage. The second study (Chapter Three) found a significant increase in PBMC subsets, CD8+ T cells (p=0.02) and CD56-CD16+ NK cells (p=0.01), after WBC compared to CWI and a control. Lastly, a randomised control trial found that neither WBC, nor CWI, improved the recovery of pain and muscle function, as well as concentrations of blood biomarkers such as CK and inflammatory mediators and cytokines after damaging exercise compared to the control. Despite these findings suggesting that a single WBC exposure does not influence the recovery of these markers of EIMD, the transient increase in PBMCs may in fact be beneficial in facilitating the process. Exposure to WBC may increase the availability of immune cells in circulation to affect the regenerative process after EIMD. These findings therefore add new avenue to the study of WBC in the context of recovery following exercise.