Sprinter Freezes Feet Before Worlds

Gatlin frostbitten in cold therapy

Aug 24, 2011
Outside Magazine

Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100 meter champion, showed up in Dageu, South Korea for the world track and field championships with blistered, frostbitten feet after a misadventure with an experimental cooling therapy two weeks ago. After a training session in early August, Gatlin wore sweaty socks into a cryosauna, a nitrogen-vapor-cooled tank used to speed recovery. The nitrogen, at hundreds of degrees below zero, immediately froze Gatlin's socks and parts of his feet, giving him a moderate case of frostbite that persists days before he is scheduled to run trials of the 100 meters on Saturday. "It was all pussed up and blistered. It bubbled up and it stayed bubbled up for a good four or five days," he said. Elite and professional athletes have recently started using the saunas in two- to three-minute sessions as quicker alternatives to ice baths. Cryosauna maker Millennium Ice says the tanks are more effective than ice baths, too. But what makes the cryosaunas work fast also makes them dangerous: the nitrogen gas is -275 Fahrenheit when released into the tank, making frostbite a very real risk if the saunas are used improperly. Gatlin, running in his first world championships since he was banned in 2006 for steroid use, remains undeterred. "Honestly, it's just the universe telling me, 'How much do you really want this?'" he said.

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