Skinfold thickness at 8 common cryotherapy sites in various athletic populations

J Athl Train. 2012 Mar-Apr;47(2):170-7. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-47.2.170.


Context: Researchers have observed slower cooling rates in thigh muscle with greater overlying adipose tissue, suggesting that cryotherapy duration should be based on the adipose thickness of the treatment site. Skinfold data do not exist for other common cryotherapy sites, and no one has reported how those skinfolds might vary because of physical activity level or sex.

Objective: To determine the variability in skinfold thickness among common cryotherapy sites relative to sex and activity level (National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athletes, recreationally active college athletes).

Design: Descriptive laboratory study.

Setting: Field.

Patients or other participants: Three hundred eighty-nine college students participated; 196 Division I athletes (157 men, 39 women) were recruited during preseason physicals, and 193 recreationally active college athletes (108 men, 85 women) were recruited from physical education classes.

Intervention(s): Three skinfold measurements to within 1 mm were taken at 8 sites (inferior angle of the scapula, middle deltoid, ulnar groove, midforearm, midthigh, medial collateral ligament, midcalf, and anterior talofibular ligament [ATF]) using Lange skinfold calipers.

Main outcome measure(s): Skinfold thickness in millimeters.

Results: We noted interactions among sex, activity level, and skinfold site. Male athletes had smaller skinfold measurements than female athletes at all sites except the ATF, scapula, and ulnar groove (F₇,₂₇₀₂ = 69.85, P < .001). Skinfold measurements were greater for recreationally active athletes than their Division I counterparts at all sites except the ATF, deltoid, and ulnar groove (F₇,₂₇₀₂ = 30.79, P < .001). Thigh skinfold measurements of recreationally active female athletes were the largest, and their ATF skinfolds were the smallest.

Conclusions: Skinfold thickness at common cryotherapy treatment sites varied based on level of physical activity and sex. Therefore, clinicians should measure skinfold thickness to determine an appropriate cryotherapy duration.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Arm
  • Athletes*
  • Body Composition*
  • Cryotherapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Shoulder
  • Skinfold Thickness*
  • Thorax
  • Young Adult