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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 May;44(5):850-6. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31823bced9.

Microvascular perfusion and intramuscular temperature of the calf during cooling.

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  • 1School of Kinesiology and Recreation, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61761, USA.



The study's purpose was to examine how the microvascularity of the gastrocnemius changed after a cryotherapy intervention based on subcutaneous tissue thickness. A secondary purpose was to compare intramuscular temperature change to subcutaneous tissue thickness.


This was a single-blinded crossover study; each subject received both conditions (cryotherapy or sham). Subjects had baseline measurements of blood flow, blood volume, and intramuscular temperature recorded at 1 cm into the muscle belly of the medial gastrocnemius. The randomized condition was applied for 10, 25, 40, or 60 min, depending on subcutaneous tissue thickness. Immediate posttreatment microvascular measures were taken. After a designated rewarming period, again based on subcutaneous tissue thickness, measurements were retaken. At least 48 h separated the two conditions.


There were significant condition × time interactions for blood flow (P = 0.01), blood volume (P = 0.022), and intramuscular temperature (P < 0.001). For blood flow and volume, the cryotherapy condition maintained baseline levels, whereas the sham condition increased immediately after treatment and rewarming. For intramuscular temperature, the cryotherapy condition caused a decrease in intramuscular temperature from baseline compared with no change in the sham condition from baseline. Intramuscular temperature change was significantly correlated to subcutaneous tissue thickness (r = 0.49, P = 0.05).


Cryotherapy did not decrease blood flow and blood volume from resting levels, although the intramuscular temperature decreased. An intramuscular change of 7°C-9°C may not be cold enough to cause local vasoconstriction.

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