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The science behind the cold tub, a chilling but important ritual for Browns players


Northeast Ohio will never be classified as balmy or tropical, but the middle of August can be relatively warm. Mix that in with large men throwing themselves into each other while wearing pounds of pads, and it can be hot. Heat, mixed with football practice, can cause soreness through training camp.

Even with new advances in technology, the Browns try to ease the soreness with an old remedy: the cold tub, the ice bath, cold-water immersion, cold therapy. However you want to describe it, the players can agree on one thing: The cold tubs are chilling experiences that can take your breath away. Unless you're Myles Garrett.

"It helps with cramps, helps with muscle swelling and tightness. So I might as well use what they give me," Garrett said.

How did he plan on attacking the ice bath? Ease his way in? Garrett shed his shirt and plopped into the pool, which had a thick layer of ice cubes over the water. He didn't shiver. He didn't make a face to show he was cold.

As Garrett was jumping in, rookie defensive end Chad Thomas was getting out, voicing how numb his toes were. But having his toes numbed for a few minutes is better than getting injured. The ice bath helps prevent those injuries.

"You've just got to sit it in your mind that if you're going to do it, you've just got to do it. Get in," Thomas said. "Don't think about it."

Any player can use the cold tub, and the team doesn't mandate that the players do it. Thomas and Garrett do it to keep their body right.

The Browns aren't just using cold tubs for their body, though. Contrast baths are also in play for Cleveland, but those aren't as public. The cold tubs are out under the stands on the practice field where fans can see them. Contrast baths are inside the team facility.

The contrast bath is a mix between hot and cold. Hot water dilates muscles and increases blood flow; the cold constricts blood vessels. It creates a synthetic pump of blood.

"By creating that pumping mechanism, you're creating circulation throughout the body," said Joe Sheehan, the Browns Vice President of Player Health and Development. "You're flushing bad toxins out. You're bringing new blood back in."

Contrasts baths accomplish both the dilation and constriction of muscles and vessels. But cold tubs, and the constriction, can open those vessels up, too. Especially after a hot day on the practice field.

Whether it's the cold tub, the contrast bath or the regular pool in the team facility, Thomas and Garrett make it an enjoyable experience. If you get in, you have to be in for five minutes. Thomas makes sure to be in for five minutes, then plays a game. He tries to shoot an empty Gatorade bottle into a trash can about 10 feet from the pool. Once he makes a shot, he allows himself to get out.

But Monday, Thomas' shooting was as cold as his body in the tub, and his toes were feeling it.

After being in there much longer than the five minutes, Thomas made his way to the pool in the facility. All to keep his body right.

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