Hyperbaric oxygen chambers and the treatment of sports injuries

Sports Med. 1996 Oct;22(4):219-27. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199622040-00002.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, an established therapeutic intervention in diving medicine, is being investigated in wound management, where oxygen is an integral part of the healing process. Currently, the evidence is controversial as to whether there is a basis for using hyperbaric oxygen in normal wounds. This review explains the rationale for the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and reports on the initial research in the area of hyperbaric oxygen in sports-induced injury. In addition to the increased dissolved content of oxygen in the plasma, the combination of pressure and oxygen seems to promote systemic vasoconstriction and yet inhibition of vasoconstriction in the injured area, which will limit oedema. The safety of hyperbaric oxygen in otherwise healthy athletes is examined. Potential contraindications to hyperbaric oxygen therapy include individuals who are febrile, suffer from upper respiratory infections, or have suffered a trauma to the chest where a pneumothorax is suspected or have a predisposition to tension pneumothorax. The initial human and animal model studies have shown promising, and in some instances significant, acceleration of healing. The potential benefits for sports injuries appear to be a blunting of initial injury, possibly by controlling the neutrophil adhesion and release of oxygen free radicals as well as an enhancement of healing processes requiring oxygen-like collagen formation phagocytosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy*
  • Contraindications
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation* / adverse effects
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / physiopathology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / therapy*
  • Wound Healing / physiology