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Russian Cold Peps Up the English and Helps Them Enter the World Cup Semi-Final

Several teams playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia took advantage of a new therapy developed by ITMO University for use in training for tournament matches that speeds recovery from physical exertion with dosed cooling.

On Saturday, July 7, England won over Sweden and entered the World Cup semi-finals. Preparing for the matches of the world's largest football tournament the players alternate between an intensive workout and recovery procedures, one of which is cryotherapy in a cryosauna.

Cryosauna exposes the patient's entire body to physiotherapeutic cryogenic gas. This treatment is known as whole-body cryotherapy, or WBC.

"WBC has a powerful normalizing effect on the human body, which aids in recovering from a number of serious diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, bronchial asthma, diabetes mellitus, and others. In recent years, WBC has been used in sports medicine to speed up recovery from intensive workouts, suppress pain, and accelerate tissue regeneration," said Alexander Baranov, head of the Cryogenic Technique and Liquefied Natural Gas Technologies Department of ITMO University, one of the leading universities participating in Project 5-100.

Cryotherapy's most obvious benefit is that it provides fast, permanent relief from pain and joint stiffness, as well as accelerating tissue regeneration. The procedure kills all types of pain (from stretching, dislocation, etc.) for 4-6 hours. It also makes it possible to intensify training and rehabilitation afterwards, relieving stress and providing a number of other advantages.

A single-person cryosauna manufactured by Krion, a St. Petersburg-based company managed by an ITMO University graduate, is the most common model in sports medicine. It was developed in Prof. Baranov's department at ITMO University as part of the Cryotherapy in Russia Project. Thanks to its high portability and low dependence on electricity, the device can be set up at the training site and the athletes can have access to WBC during practice. Russian mobile cryosaunas were used in the 2011 Tour de France, the 2013 Universiade in Kazan and the World Martial Arts Games, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the Summer Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, in 2014.

The English and Japanese teams rented Krion cryosaunas at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, according to the manufacturer. "For the English team, having a cryosauna at the team's base is a requirement for players in the leading European clubs. WBC is becoming the norm for European clubs," Baranov said.

As the Russian publication Sport Express reports, a cryosauna (although it was a so-called air cryosauna) was also used by Spanish national team players at its Krasnodar base. Team captain Sergio Ramos and striker Lucas Vazquez took cold steam showers after winning the match against Iran 1:0. According to Sport Express, each player spent several minutes in a special chamber, where the temperature wend down to -100 degrees Celsius.

However, specialists at Krion say the effectiveness of modern air cryosaunas is questionable. "Our cryosaunas operate at a temperature of -130. Studies have shown that this is the optimal temperature to provide the desired therapeutic effect," the company's CEO, Ivan Baranov, said. "Higher temperatures dramatically reduce the effectiveness of cryotherapy. That is probably one of the reasons why the Spaniards didn't do so well at the championship."

The Japanese football team received WBC under the supervision of Prof. Michiko Dohi, director of the Institute for Sports Research medical center in Tokyo, Alexander Baranov said. He added that, on the eve of the championship, the professor reached out to his department asking for their help in renting a mobile cryosauna for the team's training base in Kazan. "The country is preparing for the Summer Olympics, and Ms. Dohi is developing her own methods for sports applications of the Russian cryosauna," he said. "The Japanese footballers underwent much more WBC than the British, and followed the professor's distinct methodology. Perhaps the success of the Japanese team, which almost reached the quarterfinals of the championship, is to some extent due to the therapeutic effect of the Russian cryosauna."

Eminent sports clubs such as Zenit FC, Lokomotiv Kuban, Valencia, PAOK, Panathinaikos and many others have had cryosaunas at various times.

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