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Hyperbaric Oxygen as an Adjuvant for Athletes


There has recently been a resurgence in interest in hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment in sports therapy, especially in Japan. Oxygen naturally plays a crucial role in recovery from injury and physiological fatigue. By performing HBO treatment, more oxygen is dissolved in the plasma of the pulmonary vein via the alveolar, increasing the oxygen reaching the peripheral tissues. HBO treatment is therefore expected to improve recovery from injury and fatigue.

HBO treatment has been reported to reduce post-injury swelling in animals, and in humans; swelling was also mitigated, but to a lesser extent. Positive results have also been reported regarding tissue remodelling after injury, with injuries involving bones, muscles and ligaments showing improved recovery. Furthermore, HBO treatment has effectively increased recovery from fatigue. This was clearly seen at the Nagano Winter Olympics, where sports players experiencing fatigue were successfully treated, enabling the players to continue performing in the games.

Despite its potential, HBO treatment does have its risks. Increasing oxygen levels in tissues poses a risk to DNA through oxidative damage, which can lead to pathological changes in the CNS and the lungs. Regarding the operating of HBO systems, safer administration should be advised.

Further research into HBO treatment is required if this therapy is to become more widespread. It should become possible to tailor treatment to an individual’s condition in order to use HBO treatment efficiently.

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All authors agree with the contents of the manuscript and affirm that this work has not been submitted or published elsewhere. The authors would like to acknowledge Prof. Tetsuya Tateishi of the National Institute for Materials Sciences and Prof. Takashi Ushida of the University of Tokyo. The authors would also like to thank Dr Tsukasa Kanda and Dr Takeo Imada for their valuable assistance in these research projects. No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

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Correspondence to Yoshimasa Ishii.

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Ishii, Y., Deie, M., Adachi, N. et al. Hyperbaric Oxygen as an Adjuvant for Athletes. Sports Med 35, 739–746 (2005).

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