Boost Your Sports Recovery With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Here are 3 reasons many athletes use hyperbaric chambers for their sports performance and recovery
Performance may be an athlete’s job, but physical maintenance and recovery is the foundation.
So how could extra oxygen help? And even more than that…how could oxygen administer in a hyperbaric chamber help?
Michael Phelps, LeBron James, Rashad Jennings, Rafael Soriano, and Joe Namath are just a few athletes who have used hyperbaric chambers.1 Some of the benefits you’ll hear from some of these athletes include:
- Feeling better after sleeping
- Feeling more energy
- Recovering from soreness faster
- Recovering from injuries faster
- Sharpened mental clarity
Let’s talk about how hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) benefits your tissues more than disciplined breathing. And even more than breathing pure oxygen from a mask or nasal cannula.
Here are 3 benefits of hyperbaric chamber therapy for athletes:
HBOT helps heal challenging injuries
Tendon and ligament injuries are extremely common in the world of sports. The majority of sports injuries are lower limb. The most common are in the ankle.2 They’re time-consuming and challenging to heal, which often derails an athlete’s performance and plans.
HBOT, however, is an incredible resource for injuries in these areas of the body.3 HBOT studies with athletes are limited but growing. In one study review, HBOT showed particular promise for sports injuries involving areas of a muscle that have lower blood flow. These include your ligaments, tendons, and bones. These areas can be especially challenging to heal, making HBOT a promising therapy option for speeding healing.4
Normally, oxygen travels to your tissues through your circulation. However, if you’ve had an injury, your circulation is usually disrupted. Tendons and ligaments have a slow healing time because they don’t have the same level of circulation as other parts of the body, like muscles. It creates a problematic cycle. Your tissues need oxygen delivered by the blood vessels, but they don’t have sufficient blood vessels to give them the oxygen they need. When torn or exposed, they often struggle to get the oxygen they need to repair.
But HBOT quickly delivers oxygen to the cells that need it. Instead of only relying on blood vessels to deliver oxygen, HBO therapy pushes more oxygen into the bloodstream with pressure. And this pressure feels no more intense than going down in a submarine.
HBOT promotes the processes needed to recover heavily used muscles
Heavy exercise remodels skeletal muscles. But overuse with intense training is leading to more soft tissue damage among athletes. Long-term muscle use requires extra oxygen.5
With HBOT therapy, both your blood and your tissues are supplemented with oxygen. This makes your muscles access the oxygen quicker. There’s no faster or more intense way to deliver so much oxygen to your cells. Studies support that HBOT accelerates your myogenesis (muscle tissue formation) in soft tissue muscle injury, like bruising.6
The process doesn’t take too long. Safe HBO sessions are about 2 hours long and in multiple therapy sessions. There’s no need to sleep full nights in a chamber, like some athletes do, to reap the benefits.
HBO decreases inflammation
After strenuous workouts, your body has an inflammatory response. This helps your muscles recover but gives you soreness. It’s also problematic if you need to perform soon after the previous workout. Too much swelling, or a constant state of swelling from frequent workouts, puts your cells at risk for damage.
The mechanisms aren’t well understood, but HBOT has been shown to reduce inflammation.6 It helps break the cycle of inflammation, which keeps cells from becoming oxygen-starved from the swelling. This can benefit virtually any kind of tissue. Whether it’s healthy tissue that just needs rejuvenation, or damaged tissue that needs multidisciplinary therapy, HBOT can benefit both.
The combination of pressure and pure oxygen is what creates these dynamic effects. Pure oxygen alone requires a prescription, and when simply breathed, only works as well as your circulation. A controlled pressurized environment is very hard to access other than through a hard hyperbaric chamber. Together, they have exponential results.
Should I sleep in a hyperbaric chamber?
No, you don’t have to spend a full night sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber. Some athletes and celebrities have reported sleeping full nights in a hyperbaric chamber. But to see the benefits of HBO therapy, you only need around 2 hours at an absolute atmosphere (ATA) of 1.5 to 3.
Can I get a home hyperbaric chamber to boost my sports performance?
We wouldn’t recommend it. The “home” hyperbaric chambers you can buy are soft chambers. These chambers have a similar material to an inflatable tent or an insulated cooler. None are FDA approved other than for rare cases, like transporting an injured mountain climber to a hyperbaric chamber facility.
Soft chambers can be filled with oxygen, but that oxygen is barely pressurized. The pressure is not nearly enough to meet the recommended standards to be therapeutic. The only benefit to this chamber is breathing in oxygen, which can be done more easily through a nasal cannula. But with HBOT in a hard chamber, the pressure can be raised to the recommended 1.5 to 3 ATA.
To legally get a medical-grade hyperbaric chamber, you have to jump through lots of safety hoops.7 Because of the fire risk, these chambers need to pass many fire and health codes.8 And the FDA requires a prescription for medical-grade oxygen.
Save your time, money, and storage, and skip these expensive scams. The real benefits of hyperbaric therapy come from using 100% oxygen in a hard-shell chamber, run by a certified technician. A hyperbaric facility has all the equipment and trained staff you need. Once your therapies are arranged, all you’ll have to do is show up.
If you’re an athlete ready to cash in on the benefits of a hyperbaric chamber…
Let’s talk about your fitness and recovery goals. At the Hyperbaric Physicians of Georgia, we see athletes with needs just like yours all the time. We’d be happy to answer your questions about how hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help you recover and perform at your peak. Talk to your doctor about whether HBOT would be right for you, and give us a call today at (770) 422-0517.
[This article is not medical advice, and shouldn’t be used to predict positive or negative outcomes of hyperbaric oxygen therapies. Don’t use it to diagnose or provide a treatment plan. We don’t recommend trying HBOT outside a facility with HBOT trained therapists and medical grade oxygen and chambers. Please talk to your doctor or hyperbaric physician if you have any questions regarding your medical concerns, health goals, or HBOT.]