Ice for Injury - Is it really what it's made out to be?



For years in sport whenever someone is injured Ice has been the go to method to initially treat injuries. Whenever you see professional athletes injured they're often wrapped up in crazy amounts of ice. But is ice the best method for an initial injury or is ice even beneficial at all? Research is constantly being updated, so lets unpack everything!


Originally 1978 is the earliest known documentation of an injury protocol and is where the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) was developed. This has been the 'go to' method for most forms of acute injury and was produced by Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Over the next 20 years this term was expanded to PRICE with Protection added to the start. However, it was changed after 14 years to POLICE (Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression and Elevation).


So why was Ice included in our injury protocols? Well, initially it was believed that Ice would help to assist in the healing process by reducing inflammation. Many people felt that Ice made them feel 'better' after application. However, what we know with improvements with evidence is that Ice is a great 'analgesic' and can help to reduce your pain. This is often why people describe that they feel better after ice. However, ice may actually be inhibiting our bodies ability to heal and may have negative impacts in the long-term.


Inflammation is normal and necessary for our body to properly heal. This inflammation sends messages to cells throughout our body to promote healing. One chemical released is a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1). This initiates our recovery process by removing damaged tissue that needs to be replaced by our body. There is evidence that Ice may delay this process that is essential for healing.


So where to now? In 2019 Ice was removed from the protocol for injury management and was replaced PEACE & LOVE (Protection, Elevation, Avoid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, Compression, Education & Load, Optimism, Vascularisation and Exercise.


So when should we use ice? Ice can be used in the very first stages after injury to help reduce pain and act as an analgesic. However, it can't assist in increasing your bodies ability to heal and may actually be inhibiting it. If you are unsure on what to do it is always best to get a follow up with a physiotherapist or doctor.

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