Hyperbaric Chambers

In the world of athletics today, everyone is trying to get a competitive edge to set themselves apart from the competition but with ever increasing rules and regulations to level the playing field, performance enhancement is a very tricky science.  With stringent supplement regulations limiting consumable and injectable ergogenic aids, exploratory prep and recovery methods have been experimented with one of these being hyberbaric chambers.  

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the administration of 100% oxygen at pressures higher than 1 absolute atmosphere within a concealed chamber.  Sessions usually last between 1 and 2 hours once or twice a day with the goal of improving blood flow and diminishing tissue damage.  Continuous treatments of HBO presents the opportunity to synthesize collagen and blood vessel formation through altering states of hypoxia and hyperoxia.  The HBO treatments, hyperoxia, provide the oxygen necessary for collagen synthesis while the relative hypoxic state during the rest of the day stimulates angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels.  In a study of Olympic athletes during the Nagano Winter Olympics, HBO treatments were found to remove lactic acid and ammonia from the body leading to faster recovery.

Injury Applications

ACL injuries are some of the most common injuries amongst athletes particularly sports that involve rapid lateral movements like soccer, football and basketball.  Women in particular are most susceptible to these injuries because of their wider hips which leads to a greater Q angle, which is a measure of the resultant force vector of the quadriceps in relation to the pelvis and patella.  In a study performed on rabbits, the treated group had significantly more trabecular bone formation around the tendon-ligament graft strengthening the foundation and increasing the tensile loading strength of the graft.  The angiogenetic effects of HBO most likely contributed to these findings.  In another study investigating the effects on gene expressions of procollagen and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase (TIMPS) during ACL recuperation.  Though the results showed no statistical difference in the physical union of the ligament, the treatment group showed notable increases in Type I procollagen gene expression and TIMPS 1 and 2 which indicates that HBO not only inhibits degradation but also promotes protein synthesis.

Similarly to the effects on ACL recovery, HBO treated subjects required greater statistical force to re-injure MCLs that have been operated on.  Fourteen days post injury, the implementation of HBO treatments, from the hyperoxic effects, had enhanced collagen synthesis and repair.

Practical Application

Chances are you can’t afford your own personal hyberbaric chamber and have no access to one.  Barring any significant injuries and you simply want to remove lactic acid and promote a quicker recovery, I recommend active stretching, swimming is great for this, both immediately after and the days following exercise.