Cryotherapy and thermography in soccer players: how it affects recovery.

Cryotherapy and thermography in soccer players: how it affects recovery.

17/05/2023 Home

Cryotherapy is one of the most widely used methods to improve the recovery of soccer players. For this reason, Lubkowska et al 2023 have investigated what effects it has on skin temperature.

In a recent investigation by Lubkowska et al. (2023), they analyzed the changes in body temperature after applying a cryotherapy protocol to soccer players. This recovery method is used to improve recovery processes, especially when post-exercise muscle damage is high.

In a previous review of this blog, the effects of using cryotherapy as a recovery method and the use of heating strategies were analyzed, highlighting the timing and contraindications of both methods. Since the use of cold or heat must meet criteria in relation to the type of fatigue generated (Thorpe R, 2021).

In this case, the authors investigated the effect after a competition of applying a whole-body cryotherapy protocol to the players (the pity was that they did not use a control group to know if the variables of the people who did not use cryotherapy would have been different).

Research on cryotherapy and thermography.

The researchers proposed to analyze 14 soccer players after playing a game in which they had participated for an average of 73.84 minutes. Before introducing them into the cryotherapy protocol, they underwent a thermographic evaluation and a serology analysis. The procedure consisted of a 3-minute exposure to minus 140ºC in a portable cryotherapy cabin for all the players.

Thermography and cryotherapy

Figure 1. Example of evaluation before and after a cryotherapy protocol analyzed with

Immediately afterward, the thermographic evaluation of the players was carried out again. The other serological tests were not performed immediately after but were performed 24, 48, and 72 hours after the intervention.

Research results

The results of the cryotherapy exposure show a symmetrical reduction in body temperature in all regions exposed to the protocol. In addition, the authors point out differences between the regions of the body closest to the body where the temperature decreases less (In the chest, for example, Delta= -6.8±1.42ºC) and the more distant regions such as arms (Delta= -7,35±2.22ºC; -7.38±1.95ºC) and legs (Delta= -10.14±1.74ºC; -9.96±1.49ºC) where it decreased more.

In addition, it is worth noting the relationships with the other anthropometric variables that the authors collected. The positive relationship between the difference in temperature before the intervention and after the intervention with the percentage of fat in the players is noteworthy, especially in the posterior region of the legs (FAT [%]: Thigh Back r = 0.623; p = 0.017).

Regarding the cardiac variables, it is interesting to highlight the relationship of the same posterior region of the legs with the systolic pressure of the players before the game. Those with higher systolic blood pressure had greater changes in lower leg temperature (SBP [mmHg]: Thigh Back r = 0.627; p = 0.022).

fatigue and biomarkes and cryotherapy

Figure 2. Serum biomarkers related to fatigue post cryotherapy protocol.

Finally, the serological concentrations of Creatine kinase (CK), Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and Aspartate transaminase (AST) that are related to muscle damage and fatigue are significantly altered 24 hours after the competition but all return to their normal values. after 72 hours of the cryotherapy protocol.

Conclusions of applying cryotherapy acutely in athletes.

A cryotherapy protocol that acutely cools the skin temperature below 6-10ºC of difference with its basal state will help to recover the blood variables related to fatigue in the 72 hours after the effort.

In addition, the largest differences in temperature before and after are related to those players with a higher percentage of fat, this being a less vascularized tissue and with worse thermogenesis. Likewise, the systolic pressure has a positive relationship with the temperature difference, the authors do not present a discussion about why this could occur, so future lines of research should follow these findings.

Finally, thermography is postulated as a useful tool for the control of recovery processes, the symmetry factor that these media must cause being remarkable, for this reason, the asymmetries metric continues to be a fundamental factor in the identification of KPIs.


Lubkowska, A.; Knyszy ´nska, A. Thermographic Assessment of Skin Temperature Changes following Partial Body Cryostimulation (PBC) in Football Players. Appl. Sci. 2023, 13, 4123. app13074123

Thorpe RT (2021) Post-exercise Recovery: Cooling and Heating, a Periodized Approach. Front. Sports Act. Living 3:707503. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2021.707503

Europa Thermohuman ThermoHuman has had the support of the Funds of the European Union and the Community of Madrid through the Operational Programme on Youth Employment. Likewise, ThermoHuman within the framework of the Export Initiation Program of ICEX NEXT, had the support of ICEX and the co-financing of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

CDTI Thermohuman has received funding from the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), in participation with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), for the R+D activities involved in creating a new tool, based on thermography, for the prediction and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis. See project detail.