Immediate Effects of Cryotherapy on Static and Dynamic Balance

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PURPOSE/BACKGROUND: Cryotherapy is commonly used in physical therapy with many known benefits; however several investigations have reported decreased functional performance following therapeutic application thereof. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of cryotherapy applied to the ankle on static and dynamic standing balance. It was hypothesized that balance would be decreased after cryotherapy application. METHODS: Twenty individuals (aged 18 to 40 years) participated in this research project. Each participant was tested under two conditions: an experimental condition where subjects received ice water immersion of the foot and ankle for 15 minutes immediately before balance testing and a control condition completed at room temperature. A Biodex® Balance System was used to quantify balance using anterior/posterior (AP), medial/lateral (ML), and overall balance indices. Paired t-tests were used to compare the balance indices for the two conditions with alpha set at 0.05 a priori. Effect size was also calculated to account for the multiple comparisons made. RESULTS: The static balance indices did not display statistically significant differences between the post-cryotherapy and the control conditions with low effect sizes. Dynamic ML indices significantly increased following the cryotherapy application compared to the control exhibiting a moderate effect size indicating decreased balance following cryotherapy application. No differences were noted between experimental and control conditions for the dynamic AP or overall balance indices while a small effect size was noted for both. CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that cryotherapy to the ankle has a negative effect on the ML component of dynamic balance following ice water immersion. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Immediate return to play following cryotherapy application is cautioned given the decreased dynamic ML balance and potential for increased injury risk. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 3b Case-control study.

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