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Cryotherapy Injury: What Happened To Antonio Brown’s Feet

The Oakland Raiders have suffered many defeats recently, going 4-12 last season. Now, their new wide receiver Antonio Brown seems to be suffering agony of the feet. His feet.

In March of this year, the 31-year-old Brown came to the Raiders from the Pittsburgh Steelers via a trade. However, something’s been afoot since the end of July, around the time Brown saw a foot specialist. According to ESPN, it’s been unclear for a while why Brown’s been missing practices. However, a picture of Brown’s discolored, blistering, and peeling feet that circulated on social media was a step towards figuring out what was going on with him. Warning, if you do click on the link to see his feet, you may go ugh.

What was the cause of his foot distress? Dirty Uggs? A filthy shower floor? Dancing with the Stars on hot coals?

No, Chris Simms offered a different explanation on Monday’s episode of Pro Football Talk (PFT) Live, and it’s cold. Apparently, Brown, had “burned his feet by entering a cryotherapy machine without the proper footwear, and his feet were frostbitten,” as described by Mike Florio. A later post by Florio indicated that an unnamed Raiders source had subsequently confirmed this explanation.

Cryotherapy has little to do with Jon Cryer and is instead a treatment that exposes your body to very low, often subzero, temperatures. Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is when you immerse your entire body in such frigid conditions by climbing into a tank or stepping into a chamber filled with liquid nitrogen or air super-cooled by some other method. As I’ve described previously for Forbes, the jury is still out on the benefits of cryotherapy because not enough rigorous scientific studies have been done to evaluate this treatment. Nonetheless, a number of athletes and celebrities do claim that cryotherapy makes them feel better and stronger and helps them recover sooner from injuries.

One thing’s for sure, exposing your body and skin to very low temperatures is not without its risks. In both love and life, very cold things can be dangerous. Your skin is not an Iron Man suit. It is not built to weather freezing temperatures. Therefore, if you do undergo cryotherapy, make sure that you wear the proper protection and pay close attention to your skin and body throughout the process. Never get cryotherapy without the close supervision of a trained medical professional.

Watch for danger signs such as your skin getting pale, turning blue, becoming numb, or developing tingling sensations. These are symptoms of “frostnip.” Fortunately, no real damage occurs in frostnip. Symptoms resolve as soon as you re-warm the affected body part.

Ah, but if you ignore these symptoms and stay in the cold, cold injury may result. Cold injury is when actual damage to your skin results but you haven’t gotten frostbitten yet. One example of cold injury is chilblains, otherwise known as pernio, perniosis, or cold-induced vascular disorder. In this condition, the cold air causes inflammation in the tiny blood vessels in your skin and the resulting formation of small lesions. Another example of a cold injury is trench foot, a product of prolonged exposure to cold and damp conditions. In trench foot, your feet may become numb and discolored, with blistering and dead skin falling off, a bit similar to what Brown’s feet looked like.

Frostbite is when your skin actually freezes from cold exposure. Ice crystals can form in your skin and underlying tissues, causing additional damage. Frostbite can result in a wide variety of skin changes and damage, ranging from superficial non-permanent damage to charcoal-like mummified skin that dies and falls off your body.

Hypothermia is also a risk of cryotherapy, especially WBC. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, changes in skin color throughout your body, and loss of coordination, judgement, or concern. “Don’t worry, be happy” may be a fine attitude when you’re resting in bed, but not when sitting in liquid nitrogen. Hypothermia is a medical emergency because it can lead to loss of consciousness and even death. Death can make your muscles and injury feel better but has other drawbacks.

So, it looks like Brown got some cold feet during his first training camp with the Raiders, and it will take time for his heels and the rest of his feet to heal. It isn’t clear how often people get burned by cryotherapy and how frequently injuries actually occur. There may be high variability in the type of people running cryotherapy facilities and administering treatments and the precautions that they take. Therefore, if you are considering cryotherapy, do your research before choosing a place, and make sure that there is appropriate supervision. You don’t want to be left out in the cold.

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