Ice baths, also known as cold water immersion (CWI), have long been known to enhance recovery after participating in a wide variety of sports. However, conclusive studies that prove their effectiveness, particularly in regards to combat athletes, have been somewhat few and far between. That is until now.
In this recent study conducted by researchers from several different sports science institutions (including the Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Doha, Qatar as well as Normandie University at the University of Rouen, Rouen, France), 12 male MMA fighters engaged in a simulated MMA contest and were then either submerged in an ice bath for 15 minutes or required to stay in a room temperate environment for the control group.
They were then tested immediately following the ice bath as well as the control group in regards to their physical performance which included sprints and box jumps and well as their blood hormone levels (testosterone, cortisol and creatine kinase) in addition to their Hooper scores which is perceived wellness. They were also then tested again in these fields 24 hours after to see what changes had since occurred.
What they found was that the cold water immersion group had a moderate improvement in their 10-m sprint 24 hours after the simulated MMA contest and their Hooper scores (perceived wellness) also had a marked improvement versus the control group which includes improvements in sleep quality, fatigue as well as a decrease in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
However, with that being said, immediately following the cold water immersion, their physical performances in both the 5 and 10 m sprint were impaired by the cold water immersion versus the control group so there is a bit of a drawback there.
In conclusion, while ice baths and cold water immersion is something that can assist combat athletes in their recovery, they need to be timed and implemented correctly or your training and performance can suffer.