The Effects of Walking on Gastrocnemius Cooling During an Ice Bag Treatment

in International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training
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  • 1 St. Mary’s College of Maryland
  • 2 University of South Carolina
  • 3 ATI Physical Therapy
  • 4 Indiana State University
  • 5 Central Michigan University
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Many athletic trainers use “ice to go” to treat their athletes. However, researchers have reported that icing a working muscle may negate intramuscular (IM) cooling.


The purpose of our study was to determine the length of time needed to cool the gastrocnemius while walking followed by rest.


A randomized crossover study design was used.


Exercise Physiology Laboratory.

Patients or Other Participants:

Nine healthy, physically active males and females (males 5, females 4; age 24.0 ± 2.0 years; height 174.0 ± 8.0 cm; weight 86.3 ± 6.5 kg; skinfold taken at center of gastrocnemius greatest girth, R leg 20.3 ± 4.4 mm, L leg 19.6 ± 4.1 mm) without lower extremity injury or cold allergy volunteered to complete the study.


Participants randomly experienced three treatment conditions on separate days: rest (R), walk for 15 minutes followed by rest (W15R), or walk for 30 minutes followed by rest (W30R). During each treatment, participants wore a 1 kg ice bag secured to their right gastrocnemius muscle. Participants walked at a 4.5km/hr pace on a treadmill during the W15R and W30R trials.

Main Outcome Measures:

A 1 × 3 within groups ANOVA was used to determine the effect of activity on cooling time needed for the gastrocnemius temperature to decrease 6 °C below baseline.


The R condition cooled faster (25.9 ± 5.5 min) than both W15R (33.7 ± 9.3 min; P = .002) and W30R (49.4 ± 8.4 min; P < .001). Average time to decrease 6 °C after W15R was 18.7 ± 9.3 minutes and after W30R was 19.4 ± 8.4 minutes.


Clinicians should instruct their patients to stay and ice or to keep the ice on for an additional 20 minutes after they stop walking and begin to rest.

Stephanie J. Guzzo is an assistant athletic trainer at St. Mary's College of Maryland, St. Mary's City, MD.

Susan W. Yeargin is an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Jeffery S. Carr is with ATI Physical Therapy.

Timothy J. Demchak is an associate professor at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN.

Jeffrey E. Edwards is an assistant professor at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI.