Ice Massage on the Calf Improves 4-km Running Time Trial Performance in a Normothermic Environment

Res Q Exerc Sport. 2022 Sep 19;1-7. doi: 10.1080/02701367.2022.2120948. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Local cooling with ice massage is a practical and inexpensive technique to decrease perceptual stress and improve motor performance in hot environments. However, it is unknown whether local cooling with ice massage reduces perceptual responses to exercise and improves performance in a normothermic environment. Thus, we investigated whether ice massage on the calf muscles before a 4 km running time trial (TT4km) reduced the ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and perceived muscle pain, thereby improving exercise performance in a normothermic environment. Methods: After familiarizations, fourteen recreationally endurance-trained men (age = 21.3 ± 1.2 years; body weight = 67.5 ± 9.2 kg; height = 173.0 ± 5.0 cm) underwent two TT4km on a 400 m track in normothermic conditions with or without ice massage before the trial. The time of running, RPE, and pain perception were recorded every 400 m throughout the TT4km. Results: The local cooling with ice massage increased the mean speed (~ 5.2%, p = 0.03) and decreased the time to complete the TT4km (~ 5.5%, p = 0.03). Accordingly, ice massage also reduced the exercise-derived pain perception (p = 0.028), although no effect has been found in the RPE during the TT4km (p = 0.32). Conclusion: Together, these results showed that local cooling with ice massage before the exercise reduced the exercise-derived pain perception, enabling runners to increase the speed for a comparable RPE during exercise, thereby improving the TT4km performance in a normothermic environment.

Keywords: Analgesia; RPE; athletes; cooling; pain; physical performance.