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Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in Sports Medicine and Athletics

In the recent past, competitive sports have taken a different path, with increased intensity being the norm. This has resulted in numerous instances of injuries that have affected performance during training and the actual competitive events. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is one of the rehabilitative modalities that has been explored quite widely in sports therapy. The most common injuries in sports include muscle contusions, ankle sprains, fractures, tendon, ligament, and crush injuries, e.g., concussions. Coupling HBOT with various rehabilitation programs ensures that athletes enjoy optimal results. HBOT was first tried out in the 1980s on soccer and golf players who had sustained multiple injuries. 

How HBOT Works

Increased oxygen concentration in body tissues ensures faster recovery from injury and physiological fatigue. More oxygen is available in the blood plasma, specifically in the pulmonary vein. The peripheral tissues exhibit increased cell metabolism as a result of increased oxygen supply. HBOT results in reduced regional blood flow which is made up for by increased oxygen concentration in blood plasma; the latter is more impactful. The latter also results in reduced inflammation, pain, and delayed-onset muscle soreness associated with tissue ischemia. Quicker recovery for sore muscles also entails rapid removal of lactate that accumulates in the muscles after exercising. Also, mitochondria within the cells adapt differently with increased oxygenation. The athletes are able to enjoy increased endurance and sprint interval performances. 

During the recovery of damaged tissues, HBOT aids in epithelialization and neovascularization. New blood vessels develop around the damaged tissues that are healing. Fibroblasts and osteoclasts are also able to function optimally. The former is responsible for producing collagen, while the latter is responsible for the synthesis of new bone. Tissue immunity, which is lowered by injuries, is boosted as well; injured tissues are highly prone to infections.

Increased oxygenation also reduces the swelling of soft muscles, which is associated with increased sporting activities and injuries. Damaged tissues are remodeled to perform better and more optimally, especially bone tissues, ligaments, and muscles along limbs. Increasing blood and tissue oxygen tensions enables athletes to perform their best in aerobic settings. Overall, HBOT improves the quality of life for athletes by fastening how quickly they recover from injuries and physiological fatigue. This way, they are able to maintain their top shape for longer and perform optimally. Instances of re-injury are reduced as well.

References

Barata, P., Cervaens, M., Resende, R., Camacho, Ó., & Marques, F. (2011). Hyperbaric oxygen effects on sports injuries. Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, 3(2), 111–121. https://doi.org/10.1177/1759720x11399172  

Branco, B. H., Fukuda, D. H., Andreato, L. V., Santos, J. F., Esteves, J. V., & Franchini, E. (2016). The effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on post-training recovery in Jiu-Jitsu athletes. PLOS ONE, 11(3), 122–129. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150517  

Hadanny, A., Hachmo, Y., Rozali, D., Catalogna, M., Yaakobi, E., Sova, M., Gattegno, H., Abu Hamed, R., Lang, E., Polak, N., Friedman, M., Finci, S., Zemel, Y., Bechor, Y., Gal, N., & Efrati, S. (2022). Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on mitochondrial respiration and physical performance in middle-aged athletes: A blinded, randomized controlled trial. Sports Medicine - Open, 8(1), 40–52. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-021-00403-w  

 

 

 

 

 

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