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In general divers, unless suffering from DCI, want to avoid a hyperbaric chamber. However, hyperbaric medicine is now being used to help athletes recover from sports injuries.
Hyperbaric therapies have started to be used to treat diseases and injuries. The combination of increasing the ambient pressure above 1 atmosphere and providing higher oxygen concentrations is known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO). The treatment has emerged out of a need to allow injured athletes to recover as fast as possible whilst limiting the risk of re-injury.
HBO usually consists of pressures between 1.5 to 3.0 atmospheres for periods of 1 to 2 hours once or twice a day. The results have been found, so far, to be remarkably free of untoward side effects. The treatment also includes pre-exposure techniques to reduce the risks of complications such as oxygen toxicity, middle ear barotraumas and confinement anxiety.
Studies have been undertaken on numerous aspects, including: biochemical and chemical reactions; hyperoxya and peroxygenation; and into the physiological and therapeutic effects. The studies have also been undertaken into a variety of injury types, including muscle strains, ligament damage and bone fractures.
Studies to date have concluded that the location of the injury seems to have an influence on the effectiveness of treatment. There is only sparse evidence on the efficacy of HBO although there have been promising results involving bones, muscles and ligaments. It appears that more studies into the benefits of HBO are required to determine if it is a safe and effective therapy for treatment of sports injuries.
The original article ‘Hyperbaric Oxygen Effects on Sports Injuries’ by Barata et al. is available here.