PORTLAND, ORE.: Before leaving Sacramento, Calif., earlier on Tuesday, Tristan Thompson stripped down to his shorts, walked into a freezer and danced around to Lil Wayne music in temperatures that dropped to minus-166 degrees.
He didn’t lose a bet or his mind. Instead, Thompson and five of his teammates joined members of the Cavaliers medical staff in visiting the first cryotherapy treatment center in the United States.
The Cavs are investigating the idea of purchasing their own system — the Cavs believe only one other NBA team has one — so they visited the facility open to the public in Roseville, Calif., about 20 minutes outside of Sacramento.
All the players who attended noticed their muscles weren’t as sore when they emerged, and the next day, when they beat the Portland Trail Blazers 93-88.
“I’d do it after every game if I could,” Thompson said. “The initial scream is pretty loud, but once you get in there, you get used to it.”
Thompson, C.J. Miles, Luke Walton, Tyler Zeller, Dion Waiters and Kevin Jones all participated. Given the similar chamber that burned Manny Harris’ foot at the Nike facility during the NBA lockout a few summers ago, the Cavs’ medical staff carefully studied the idea before allowing any players inside. While similar in principle, the device in California is different than the one used by Harris and the only one of its kind open to the public in the United States. It is $25 for a three-minute treatment.
Among its many benefits, cryotherapy is believed to aid in faster muscle recovery, which was most interesting to the Cavs, since they were between games on back-to-back days. Players wore skullcaps, coverings for their ears, masks, gloves, shorts and something on their feet.
The first chamber is set at minus-76 degrees and the players stayed in there for 30 seconds to allow the body to adjust. After that, the next 2½ minutes is in a chamber set to minus-166 degrees.
“The first time is the worst. Your mind is telling you, ‘I might die,’ ” said Luke Walton, who also made the trip last season when his Los Angeles Lakers were playing three games in three nights. “You can feel the saliva freezing in your mouth. You cover your breasts and you walk in circles and every couple seconds give out a yell. When you need to yell, you yell. They tell you one minute, two minutes … the last minute feels like eight minutes.”
Whole-body cryotherapy was introduced in Japan in 1980, according to the company’s website. The frigid temperatures reduce inflammation, relieve pain and improve mobility.
“It’s like icing, but way more intense,” Walton said. “It’s crazy how fresh you feel afterward, that day and the next day. Once you go out and play or practice and all the inflammation comes back, then you’ve got to do it again.”
Miles is a big proponent of the cold tub and hops in it after every practice and every morning shootaround on game days. Miles was dealing with a tight back earlier on this trip.
The Cavs have a cold tub at their practice facility, but Miles typically doesn’t get to use one on the road, which is why he was grateful for the experience.
“When it first hits you, it just takes your breath away,” he said. “They tell you before you go in to take a deep breath, so when you walk in you exhale instead of inhaling the cold air. Kevin didn’t pay attention to that part, though.”
Miles was told the cryotherapy is more effective than a cold tub, but said he’d have to go in the chamber a few more times before comparing the two.
Walton said Kobe Bryant used the chamber three times a day while he was rehabbing a knee injury, which is how the entire Lakers team wound up there last season.
The Cavs left an open invitation for players. Those who wanted to go were welcome to join; those who didn’t could pass.
“It’s either get cold for three minutes or play a back-to-back with some soreness,” Thompson said.
Cavs coach Byron Scott was glad some of his players used the trip as a team-bonding experience, but he was quick to pass on the idea of joining in.
“That did not intrigue me at all,” Scott said. “It was cold enough in L.A. and cold enough in Sacramento that I didn’t want to go into an area that was going to be even colder. More power to them.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.