Whole- (WBC) and partial-body cryotherapy (PBC) are commonly used sports medicine modalities for the treatment of injury and exercise recovery. Physiological and perceptual effects have the potential to be utilised in a novel application that involves pre-exercise WBC and PBC exposure to improve physical performance. A systematic literature search of multiple databases was conducted in July 2021 to identify and evaluate the effects of pre-exercise exposure of WBC or PBC on physical performance measures, and any potential translational effects. The following inclusion criteria were applied: (1) use of WBC or PBC exposure pre-exercise, (2) use of WBC or PBC in healthy and/or athletic populations, (3) control group was used in the data collection, and (4) investigated physiological, psychosocial or direct physical performance impacts of pre-exercise cryotherapy exposure. A total of 759 titles were identified, with twelve relevant studies satisfying the inclusion criteria after full-text screening. The twelve studies were categorised into three key areas: performance testing (n = 6), oxidative stress response (n = 4) and lysosomal enzyme activity (n = 2). The potential for eliciting favourable physical and physiological responses from pre-exercise WBC or PBC is currently unclear with a paucity of good quality research available. Furthermore, a lack of standardisation of cryotherapy protocols is a current challenge.
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