Objective: To investigate the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial and the preliminary effectiveness of ice therapy in the acute phase of a gastrocnemius tear for the quality of functional recovery.
Design: A pilot version of an intended prospective randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted.
Participants: A total of 19 patients with an acute tear in the gastrocnemius muscle were randomly allocated to either active or control treatment.
Intervention: The intervention consisted of the repeated application of crushed ice.
Main measures: Primary outcome measures were functional capacity and reconvalescence time. Secondary outcome measures were pain and work absenteeism. The number of patients we could include within the 6-hour time window and dropping out from the pilot study were regarded as indicators of the feasibility of ice therapy.
Results: A total of 16 patients were excluded from the study because diagnosis was not made within 6 hours after onset of the complaint. The 19 patients included completed the treatment. For functional capacity, reconvalescence time, work absenteeism and pain relief, no significant differences between the intervention and control group were found.
Conclusions: The execution of a randomized controlled trial on ice therapy for acute gastrocnemius tear is feasible though quite an enterprise. First, it is recommended to improve the recruitment processes. Second, power analysis demands inclusion of 396 participants. Preliminary effectiveness in our limited-sized trial indicates that the use of ice is not beneficial for people who receive ice therapy.