It’s well known that applying ice to injuries will help them heal, and that sportsmen and women will use ice baths to prevent injuries after playing a game. The body sends more blood to the cooled area, which obviously speeds up the process of healing.
It's also popular in traditional martial arts training where a bucket of icy water is poured over the head three times first thing in the morning. Sounds hardcore? Not nearly as hardcore as one new form of this sports therapy.
This involves a process called "whole body cryotherapy" that was pioneered by a Japanese scientist in 1978 and has been carried out in the Polish Rehabilitation Centre at the Olympic Preparation Centre in Spala since May 2000.
This therapy involves entering a room, (clad only in shorts, a mask, gloves and shoes) where the temperature is dropped to -70°C, for 30 seconds. But that's just the acclimatisation. The temperature is then dropped as far as -110°C , for up to 4 minutes. Any longer and your eyes would be ice cubes.
Once you've left this room, you then undergo 20 minutes of cardio-vascular training on gym equipment (and hopefully warm up a bit).
The benefits are said to include helping the body to recover from injuries five times faster than normal, improvement of blood flow and a faster elimination of bodily waste and lactic acid.
Sources: They have a website: http://www.cosspala.com.pl/krio/ecenter.htm
Another source: http://sport.guardian.co.uk/sixnations2003/story/0,12862,921289,00.html