Most athletes, whether professionals or amateurs/hobbyists, inevitably experience fatigue, inflammation, slow recovery, and injuries. Exercise comes with aches and pains due to lactic acid build-up in muscles and strain on tissues from repetitive movements. While regular exercise is very important for maintaining good health, consistent rigorous exercise with little recovery or rest between workouts can deplete energy resources and immunity, making it difficult to heal injuries and fight off infections. If left untreated, inflammation and pain from minor strains can quickly become major problems. Major traumas from high impact sports, such as head injuries or broken bones, can be severe enough to end an athlete’s career forever.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used in professional training facilities all over the world to help athletes recover quickly from strenuous workouts and injuries. They also use the therapy as a preventative modality for injuries and inflammation. Dr. Dan Rossignol, MD has studied hyperbarics’ ability to lower systemic inflammation and has compared 1 hour of treatment to taking 12,000mg of Motrin without the toxic side effects. HBOT can increase circulation and stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, which may provide extra fuel to overworked lungs and muscles. Hyperbaric therapy has also been shown to slow down and reverse inflammation and damage to injured tissues, including the brain, making it a great addition to concussion protocols. Athletes who use hyperbarics have reported faster recovery time of sore muscles, as well as increased mobility, strength and stamina.
Lower-extremity injuries have become increasingly common as sports performance demands have risen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one method used to return athletes to competition as quickly as possible, but it has received criticism and lacks support. This review examines the literature on hyperbaric oxygen therapy and soft-tissue sports injuries. In the various studies, the location of the injury seemed to influence the effectiveness of treatment. Injuries at areas of reduced perfusion such as muscle-tendon junctions and ligaments seemed to benefit more from hyperbaric oxygen treatment than injuries at the muscle belly. Differences in the magnitude of the injury and in the time between injury and treatment may also affect outcomes. The authors sought to explore these variables as they relate to soft-tissue sports injuries and to weigh the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy against its potential risks and high cost. More randomized controlled clinical trials with larger sample sizes must be conducted before hyperbaric oxygen can be established as a safe adjunctive therapy for soft-tissue sports injuries.
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Football Injury Recovery
There has recently been a resurgence in interest in hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment in sports therapy, especially in Japan. Oxygen naturally plays a crucial role in recovery from injury and physiological fatigue. By performing HBO treatment, more oxygen is dissolved in the plasma of the pulmonary vein via the alveolar, increasing the oxygen reaching the peripheral tissues. HBO treatment is therefore expected to improve recovery from injury and fatigue.
HBO treatment has been reported to reduce post-injury swelling in animals, and in humans; swelling was also mitigated, but to a lesser extent. Positive results have also been reported regarding tissue remodelling after injury, with injuries involving bones, muscles and ligaments showing improved recovery. Furthermore, HBO treatment has effectively increased recovery from fatigue. This was clearly seen at the Nagano Winter Olympics, where sports players experiencing fatigue were successfully treated, enabling the players to continue performing in the games.
Despite its potential, HBO treatment does have its risks. Increasing oxygen levels in tissues poses a risk to DNA through oxidative damage, which can lead to pathological changes in the CNS and the lungs. Regarding the operating of HBO systems, safer administration should be advised.
Further research into HBO treatment is required if this therapy is to become more widespread. It should become possible to tailor treatment to an individual’s condition in order to use HBO treatment efficiently.
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