Cryotherapy is the newest fad amongst athletes, and the fad hasn’t skipped over Penn field hockey.
This season, the team has been taking routine trips to do cryotherapy sessions at a special clinic in Center City. Alongside regular strength and conditioning, the team has been taking weekly trips to help with recovery during their long season.
The idea behind cryotherapy is speeding up recovery after intense exercise to help athletes get back onto the field. Cryotherapy involves getting into a cryo tube for two to four minutes and then dropping the temperature to sub-freezing temperatures. The idea is that after you get out from the cold, your body sends oxygenated blood throughout the body, leading to quicker healing. This science is similar to that behind using ice baths for recovery.
“The lifting, the running, the practicing, that’s all critical to success,” coach Colleen Fink said. “But in reality, the re-gen, and the mini rejuvenations along the way are actually what support progress. If you just keep trying to build, and you never take a step back, you’re actually just going to continue to deplete yourself overtime.”
Monday is the team’s recovery day, and the players typically rideshare together to the center every Monday. When they gets to the clinic, they get dressed in their choice of warm gear, including boots, hats, and scarves. While the goal is to embrace the cold, proper protection is important to prevent frostbite. Once they are properly protected, they get into the chamber where the temperature is dropped to a frigid -250 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes.
“I hate the cold more than anyone, so cryotherapy for me is a thing that I dread doing,” senior back Laura Shelton said. “It’s great after, but during I’m like, ‘somebody distract me.’”
Fortunately for Shelton, she has her teammates around her to help distract her from the temperature. The team is gathered in one room with one cryotherapy chamber, meaning that only one person gets treated at a time. Since the chamber is open at the top, the person getting treated can talk with those on the outside, in an attempt to make the time go by quicker.
“It’s so cold, and in those three minutes the rest of us are trying to distract the other person as much as we can. We’re just like pounding them with questions, which makes it fun,” senior goalkeeper Ava Rosati said.
While the cryotherapy trips are a fun bonding experience for the team, the physical benefits of the treatments are noticeable amongst the team.
“I haven’t been sore — strangely — this season, even after playing full games,” Shelton said. “I still might feel a bit tired, but the soreness definitely isn’t there after cryo.”
With early success for the field hockey team, this method could become a beneficial tool for more Penn athletes in the future. For the players, cryotherapy is a quick and unique way to improve their play on the field.
“We’re trying to afford the opportunity for players who are playing week in and week out, significant minutes, that they're getting that extra little boost of recovery,” Fink said.
At the moment, the players have been the only participants in these cryotherapy sessions. However, that may change, and the coaches may take their turn in the cold.
“We actually have it on the schedule that the coaches and [Director of Strength and Conditioning] Cory Walts are going to go down and try it, so I'm kind of scared,” Fink said.
For the Quakers, cryotherapy has become a thrilling and exciting way for them to ramp up their recovery, while also having fun trying something new.
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