There’s been several articles lately, including from Dr. Mirkin which state that ice is not the recommended treatment for the athlete anymore. Re-reading these articles, they appear to be more in-line with an athlete that has torn something and not referring to, for example, a cyclist that has had a hard workout and needs to recover as quickly as possible for the next training session.

I have spoken to several Doctor’s of Physical Therapy, DPT’s, and they said that this non-icing belief has come from people doing it wrong. Here’s what one Physical Therapist had to say,

“The debate over ice is because many people use it the wrong way. When you break down muscle after exercising or tear any structures in the body it needs to heal. The healing process takes blood  to the area in order to bring the area nutrients the body needs to heal/recover.

This blood creates swelling. This swelling is good TO A CERTAIN EXTENT. If there is too much swelling it can actually prolong the healing time resulting from an injury. Ice helps manage the amount of swelling through vasoconstriction.

The blood vessels get really small and blood can’t be sent to the area. It’s like a red light for traffic on a freeway onramp that helps with the overall flow of traffic of the freeway. Same concept. It also helps the patient feel pain relief because nerves can’t fire in that cold of an environment it slows down the pain receptor transmission.

So, ice used in the right way is good for the healing/recovery process.”

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Below is a recap of Pros and Cons of Icing when it comes with managing cyclists’ training and injuries.

Pros of Icing After Training or Injury for Cyclists

1. Reduced Inflammation:

  • Description: Icing can help reduce swelling and inflammation by constricting blood vessels and limiting fluid buildup in the affected area.
  • Importance for Cyclists: This is crucial for cyclists who might experience inflammatory responses in their legs or joints after intense training sessions or an injury.

2. Pain Management:

  • Description: The cooling effect of ice can numb the nerves in the affected area, providing temporary pain relief.
  • Importance for Cyclists: Managing pain efficiently allows cyclists to remain comfortable and facilitates smoother recovery processes without excessive reliance on painkillers.

3. Limiting Damage:

  • Description: Icing can help limit tissue damage post-injury by reducing metabolic activity and slowing down the cellular processes that can lead to cell death.
  • Importance for Cyclists: Limiting further tissue damage is crucial to safeguard against complications and facilitate a timely return to training and competitions.

Cons of Icing After Training or Injury for Cyclists

1. Restricted Blood Flow:

  • Description: While the constriction of blood vessels helps manage swelling, it also limits nutrient-rich blood flow to the affected area, potentially slowing the healing process.
  • Importance for Cyclists: Cyclists need optimal blood flow to nourish injured or strained tissues, which is pivotal for effective recovery and future training adaptability.

2. Risk of Frostbite or Ice Burns:

  • Description: Incorrect application of ice or using it for too long can lead to frostbite or ice burns, causing additional skin and tissue damage.
  • Importance for Cyclists: Given the necessity to maintain skin and muscle integrity, cyclists should be wary of the potential risks associated with improper icing techniques.

3. Potential for Masking Injuries:

  • Description: The numbing effect of ice might mask pain and lead to underestimating the severity of an injury.
  • Importance for Cyclists: For cyclists, understanding the true extent of an injury is vital to avoid exacerbating it through continued activity or inappropriate management strategies.

Note: While icing can offer benefits, especially in acute injury management, it’s essential to utilize it correctly and consider consulting healthcare professionals for accurate advice on managing training stresses and injuries. It is always recommended to use a cloth or protective layer between the ice and the skin to avoid potential risks associated with direct ice application.