Eli5 Why are ice baths considered safe for athletes but puting ice or ice water on your skin is not?


Title says it all

In: Biology

There is a widely-held belief that ice baths after strenuous athletic exertion can reduce the time needed for healing. However, for athletes in pro leagues or schools, these treatments are part of a supervised regimen that includes dedicated medical supervision.

While there’s not much cause for anyone else to take a bath in ice water even with supervision, there’s no harm in putting an ice cube on your skin for a few minutes, which is about as long as you will feel comfortable doing it. The heat loss will be more than offset by your body heat and the ambient air. It will feel cold and wet but it won’t do any lasting harm right away.

That’s for a single ice cube or a relatively small ice pack that is applied briefly. More ice and/or longer exposure leads to more heat loss and, at some point, that gets to be a real problem for you.