Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): 4 Benefits for Athletes
Athletes are always looking for their next “win,” whether they are at the professional level or a weekend warrior. But, in doing so, they also encounter several challenges. Fatigue and injuries can seriously damage one’s competitive edge. In some cases, an injury or recurring injury forces athletes to abandon their sport entirely.
In recent years, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been proven to be an effective way to address injuries, aid in recovery, and improve athletic output—both mentally and physically. Even if you’re an amateur athlete who is just passionate about your sport of choice, HBOT is a viable way to take your performance to the next level. Learn all about the hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits for athletes and how you can get started.
4 Ways Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Optimizes Athletic Performance
There are four main HBOT benefits for athletes.
1. Increased Physical Performance
Studies speak volumes about HBOT’s transformative impact on physical athletic performance:
- Contributes to faster healing, post-injury
- Expedites recovery from non-injury soreness
- Reduces incidence of injury occurrence or reoccurrence
- Breaks up the cycle of inflammation athletes often experience
Hyperbaric chamber benefits don’t stop there. Watch Dr. Maroon explain why he not only recommends the hyperbaric oxygen protocols of the Aviv Medical program to patients with concussive injury to the brain, but also how his own participation in the program has improved his athletic performance and recovery times.
2. Improved Mental Clarity
Cognitive performance, which is a foundational focus of the Aviv Medical Program, plays a crucial role in athleticism. Intensity, focus, and attention support the physical fundamentals of a sport.
Research illustrates patients who have undergone HBOT experience improvement in areas such as attention, focus, and information processing speed—all of which contribute to better athletic performance.
Two athletes who previously completed HBOT have spoken openly about its benefits.
Peter Paltchik is a Judo champion who was not just looking to maximize his physical capacity, but also his cognitive fortitude. Paltchik describes the program as his “ace card” to success:
“To be an Olympic medalist, every second counts. You must be able to analyze, to react, to think very quickly. This is the difference between winning and losing. In order to be the most complete athlete and the best fighter I can, I must have the best cognitive capabilities such as handling extreme levels of stress, concentration, making decisions in real time. After I joined the program, I felt the improvements in my mind and body. I was sharper, more focused in fights, and I was able to make quicker decisions.”
Alon Day, a three-time European NASCAR champion, also benefited from the program. Unlike other sports, race car driving is about intense, small motor movements. Race car drivers require significant grip strength to control the steering wheel at high speeds. Small movements of the hand and foot can make the difference between finishing first or crashing. The environment also takes a physical toll, as drivers wear a fireproof suit with no air conditioning, which can lead to dehydration.
Racing requires intense cognitive focus for an extended period. This is one area where Day made significant strides. Small movements of the hand and foot can make the difference between finishing first or crashing.
After completing the Aviv Medical Program, Alon achieved approximately 15% improvement in cognitive function.
“There is nothing like it in the world. You cannot go to the gym and get the same results. When I came over there every morning, I felt like I was a bionic man, being in the hyperbaric chamber at the cutting edge of medicine. At the end of the hyperbaric treatment, when the season started, I was at my best. I won the championship, and I broke every record. In my opinion, this treatment is for whoever needs to be on top of their game.”
3. Better Sleep
Sleep is imperative to restoring the body after a hard workout. But sometimes, depending on injuries, daily stressors, and the pressure athletes face, getting consistent quality sleep is easier said than done.
The good news is that research indicates the cognitive and physical improvements that come with HBOT help improve sleep quality. This has also been the case for those who have suffered from long COVID and experienced chronic insomnia.
4. Increased Energy
HBOT encourages the body to heighten its aerobic stamina, including lung capacity and cardiovascular endurance. The exciting part about the therapy is that it focuses on helping individuals of all ages.
When 14-year-old Linden Perry suffered from post-concussion syndrome due to a sports injury, she regained her health and performance through a holistic treatment program—one that entailed HBOT, cognitive, and physical training. The personalized treatment plan left Perry more energized and gave her the confidence to continue to excel in her athletic programs.
Patrick Bol, avid trail runner and sailor, underwent a similar rehabilitation plan that included HBOT. He faced physical and cognitive complications due to long COVID. After 20 treatment sessions, Bol feels more energetic and is able to enjoy his physical activities again.
Which Hyperbaric Chambers for Athletes Are Most Beneficial?
While all hyperbaric chambers have the same goal—to deliver 100% oxygen in a high-pressure environment—not all chambers are created equally. There are different types of chambers that each possess a unique process.
- Monoplace chambers administer oxygen to one person at a time. The chamber’s structure reflects a tube or cylinder in which individuals lie in a horizontal position.
- Soft-side monoplace chambers are more “portable” than the rigid cylindrical HBOT chambers made of glass or plastic. But, it also cannot reach the level of pressurization to produce high-level results.
But neither of these chambers allows for the one key ingredient needed to achieve groundbreaking results: oxygen fluctuation.
Multiplace chambers or “suites,” such as the one at the Aviv Clinics facility in The Villages, utilize the science behind oxygen fluctuations in a pressurized environment. This mechanism produces the underlying elements of enhanced athletic performance, including:
- New stem cells. Stem cells can exist as any cell type in the human body. As it relates to physical performance, stem cell production supports the heart, lungs, and muscles. Lungs breathe deeper and more efficiently, allowing athletes to perform at a higher level for longer periods without becoming winded. The heart is able to pump out more oxygenated blood to other organs and muscles, and muscle growth occurs at a faster pace.
- Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF). HIF plays a role in angiogenesis, or the creation of new blood vessels. With more routes for blood to travel throughout the body—to the heart, lungs, and muscle tissue—more oxygen is also getting to those areas. This prevents fatigue and muscle soreness. HIF is also instrumental in creating new red blood cells, ensuring that maximum oxygen flow goes to the organs.
- Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is a protein that gets released during HBOT treatments and “signals” blood vessel formation. Again, the more blood that can flow to key areas of the body, the higher one’s athletic capacity.
How Can Athletes Gain the Greatest Competitive Advantage?
With Paltchik and Day—and any athlete looking to reap the benefits of a hyperbaric chamber—it’s not just about the oxygen, or even the oxygen fluctuations. Athletes need to incorporate additional components to reach their full potential.
Paltchik and Day both experienced brain-based enhancements thanks to the cognitive training included in the Aviv Medical Program. Nutrition is another area athletes need to be cognizant of, especially when pushing their bodies to maximum output.
A comprehensive program also considers athletes’ unique goals—whether they’re coming off their sports season and are looking to facilitate recovery or want to start a new season in peak physical condition.
The Bottom Line
Whether you are a professional athlete or simply want to advance your athletic capabilities to their best potential, HBOT can help. To truly transform your game, the comprehensive approach of the Aviv Medical Program is second to none in achieving peak performance.
Athletes who go through the Aviv Medical Program may undergo HBOT along with physical, cognitive, and nutritional training. This holistic program is key to helping our patients enhance their health for the long run.