5 Reasons Athletes are Using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to Accelerate Recovery

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Recovery is crucial for both the casual and serious athlete. Long used for medicinal purposes such as wound therapy, decompression sickness, and crush injuries, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has become increasingly popular for its sports recovery benefits. Well-known athletes including Michael Phelps and LeBron James have used the therapy, and recipients of the treatment have reported feeling better rested, more energetic, and less sore. Faster injury recovery has also been reported.

Let’s explore the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and how it can be integrated into your workout regimen.

How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Promotes Healing

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) brings oxygen-infused plasma to tissues starved for oxygen, promoting wound recovery, reducing inflammation, and repairing tissue damage. For athletes, this means:

  • Faster treatment of tendon, ligament, and bone injuries. Areas such as the ACL are notoriously slow to heal in part due to their lower blood flow. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes blood flow to these areas by delivering it directly into the bloodstream – not just through blood vessels.
  • Mitigates overuse injuries. Overuse injuries, DOMS, or other soft tissue concerns are common among athletes. These arise after especially challenging workouts, from injury, or with mechanical issues. HBOT directs extra oxygen to both the bloodstream and tissues, promoting tissue repair and injury recovery.
  • Reduces inflammation and soreness. An inflammatory response is common after tough workouts or when recovery time is lacking between sessions. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment can reduce inflammation, preventing oxygen starvation, and keeping soreness and swelling to a minimum. This is beneficial for athletes who need to be ready to perform.
  • Helps with crush and concussion recovery. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has traditionally been used to help treat serious crush injuries. Recently, athletes such as NFL players have used it to help manage challenging sports injuries such as crush and head injuries. HBOT may help reduce the side effects of these injuries.
  • Improves mental wellbeing and performance. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has benefits beyond the physical. Many athletes report feeling a sense of relaxation, wellbeing, and balance when undergoing treatment, and use HBOT to mentally prepare for or relax after a game, workout, or competition.

What to Expect from a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treatment

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy takes place in a chamber similar to an MRI. You’ll be invited to relax and take deep breaths as the chamber is pressurized entirely with oxygen over a period of up to two hours. Your lungs will be able to absorb much more oxygen than is possible when breathing normal air, and this is where the healing happens.

The overall experience is pleasant and comfortable, although you may feel light-headed or experience pressure inside your ears. Some people feel fatigued after a session, so avoid rushing back to work right after.

Not that note all hyperbaric oxygen treatments are created equally. While home HBOT chambers are available, they offer far less oxygenation and have not been shown to promote tissue, tendon, or bone healing. When considering hyperbaric oxygen therapy, always use an accredited facility with a “hard” chamber.

At Optimum Human, we’re proud to offer a suite of wellness and recovery treatments, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy. To learn more about the hyperbaric oxygen therapy facilities available at Optimum Human, and how we can integrate this treatment into a holistic wellness regimen, get in touch!