Is Cryotherapy the Next Trend in Athlete Recovery?
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
For years, elite athletes have been getting into ice baths to reduce swelling and aid recovery. Eric Rauscher isn't going to argue that the ice baths aren't helpful, he just thinks he has a better solution.
Instead of sitting in a tub of ice for 15 minutes, his company — Millennium ICE — has manufactured a machine called the Cryon-X that claims it can do better in three minutes.
While surrounding temperatures in an ice bath only get down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, Rauscher's device uses liquid nitrogen to crank the surrounding temperature up to minus 166 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rauscher says the device works on recovery because the body triggers its flight or fight response in order to try to maintain its temperature in the extreme cold. During that time, the blood rushes to the core and becomes oxygen-enriched.
When the person exits the device, the body immediately circulates that blood throughout the body. This helps decrease fatigue, muscle soreness.
Athletes have famously used hyperbaric chambers (oxygen therapy) to help them perform, so is this the next big thing?
Rauscher hopes so.
He comes from the real estate world, but became intrigued with cryotherapy when his Russian father-in-law introduced him to Aleksandr Matorin, who had been practicing the science in Eastern Europe.
Although the product formally launched last year, the company has just started to get traction in the sports world, where Rauscher thinks he has a natural market.
There's already a Cryon-X on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore., as well as one at ESPN's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.
Two NBA teams, which he would only say are still in the playoffs, are currently experimenting with machines, which cost about $50,000 to buy.
The liquid nitrogen costs, Rauscher said, would only run a team about $5 per use. Rauscher also expects some NFL teams to try the device as soon as the work stoppage is over.
If there's a setback, it's that there isn't any specific scientific studies done here in this country on cryotherapy. Rauscher said that the fact that NBA team trainers embraced the device is understandable since many of the trainers have contacts in Europe, where the effects have been studied more comprehensively. As to whether, Rauscher will be ready to ramp up production should teams and athletes start to embrace what Millennium Ice has to offer?
"Right now we have seven in the US," Rauscher said. "If a team orders it right now, we can have it made, delivered and installed in three weeks."
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