Benefits of HBOT for Sports Injury
By: Hayden Dunstan
Covered in more detail in the paper entitled “Hyperbaric Oxygenation and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Treatment – An Overview”, available for download on the website, sports injury and its associated complications can be relieved greatly and recovery can be accelerated with the help of HBOT.
As described under the heading ‘Oxygen as an Anti-Inflammatory’ in the above paper, oxygen is well established as a potent anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling in injured tissue. Swelling, while a natural and necessary part of the recovery process, can become uncontrolled and become the cause of further hypoxia or lack of oxygen in affected tissues. Oxygen is essential to the recovery of tissue damage, and by reducing swelling and inflammation, blood flow to the affected area is optimised, allowing for more effective distribution of nutrients and oxygen needed for cell repair and tissue healing. Hyper-oxygenation up regulates this further, facilitating far quicker recovery times. With a reduction in localised inflammation comes a reduction in pain. While oxygen does nothing directly to reduce pain, it will relieve the cause of some pain, IE inflammation.
Soft Tissue Healing:
HBOT and hyper-oxygenation has long been accepted as an up regulator of angiogenesis, (the formation of new blood vessels). This creates the perfect environment for cells to recover and divide and proliferate following injury. When an injury begins to heal this is one of the mechanisms employed by the body to replace damaged cells with new tissue and it doesn’t occur without the generation of new blood vessels. By up regulating the growth of new blood vessels to an affected area the body is able to deconstruct and remove damaged tissue and replace it with new cells and tissues at a much higher rate. HBOT facilitates the availability of additional oxygen and its direct affect on cellular function to expedite this process. The additional oxygen is consumed at a higher rate allowing cell processes to occur at even higher than optimum rates. Read more about blood vessel growth and the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the overview.
Research suggests that recovery time can be cut by up to 70%. Especially in cases where HBOT his used in conjunction with other therapies such as physiotherapy and sports massage. Massage and physio also encourage improved blood flow to an effected area. This too hastens recovery simply by ensuring better oxygen delivery to damaged tissues and more efficient removal of damaged cells. HBOT used as an adjunct therapy has a synergistic effect when used with other therapeutic modalities. A great example of this is cited in the overview regarding the case of South African Rugby captain Francois Pienaar. His use of a hyperbaric chamber to accelerate the healing of a broken wrist saved his 1995 World Cup by allowing him to return to field just one week after the break. See the article on Facebook and read his book “Rainbow Warrior” for further details.
During a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session, the blood plasma is saturated with pure oxygen to a far greater degree than when breathing air at normal pressure and indeed even when breathing oxygen at normal pressure. This enables blood plasma to pass through restrictions in blood flow caused by tissue and vascular damage that haemoglobin cannot pass through. Haemoglobin molecules are too large to pass through some obstructions and circulatory limitations caused by injury. By allowing oxygen delivery via plasma as opposed to haemoglobin, healing can take place where it may not have done before or may have taken much longer periods. This is a primary benefit of hyper oxygenation of the blood plasma. It can go where haemoglobin cannot, and in far higher quantities. This delivery of oxygen relieves hypoxic tissue states allowing recovery. Find out more in the overview about survival without haemoglobin under hyperbaric conditions, and the citation of the experiment by Dr Ite Bream entitled “Life Without Blood”. This illustrates the effectiveness of blood plasma oxygen carrying capabilities.
HBOT is also considered a performance enhancer. Increased sports and exercise performance are often noted following HBOT. The oxygen tension or pressure in the tissues remains elevated for up to 12 hours after treatment allowing mitochondria in the muscles to operate at sustained higher levels. The increased uptake of the energy molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), facilitates greater mechanical output by muscles. Currently not listed as a prohibited performance enhancer HBOT certainly works. Not limited to human performance, many involved in horse racing use this for accelerated recovery of racehorses between races and to improve their performance during competition. Whatever individual opinions are regarding ethics and humane treatment of racehorses, the point being made is, it works and it’s a common tool. Many international sports people in football, rugby, running and so on also make use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for improved performance. This lessens the incidence of injury during activity as well, acting as a protective agent.
At Cumbria Hyperbaric we hope to make available a resource to sports people as well.
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