An Australian Institute of Sport specialist says that plunging into cold water can help improve an athlete's performance during the Olympics by two to three per cent.
"It''s a difference maker. It can mean the difference between a medal or no medal when you''re talking about athletes at this level," Fox News quoted Shona Halson, who is running Australia''s state-of-the-art recovery centre, as saying.
She says that alternating between ice baths and swims in a 25m pool helps athletes drop their core body temperatures quickly, and thereby enables them to recover much faster.
"We''ve seen evidence over the last 10 years from studies which all show that recovery has become more and more important, especially in this kind of warm weather," she said.
The ice baths also act as natural anti-inflammatories and dull pain sensations, she added.
Halson highlighted the fact that high-impact athletes—such as rowers and swimmers—often notice the difference when they do not undertake recovery after competition.
"The body doesn't settle down until the core cools down so athletes come to us all the time and say they feel more lethargic and tired when they don't do these sessions," she said.
Natalie Cook, a beach volleyball star, said that she would scream each time lowered herself into the waters, which are set at about 11C.
"This isn't my idea of fun but our bodies feel so much better after it. You can really tell the difference. It's dramatic, you always feel refreshed and ready to go the next day whereas I know in the past when you're playing so many matches in the heat eventually you just find it really hard to back up the next day," she said.
"It's important for us because we've got to win seven matches (if they are to win a gold medal) so coming here is going to help us a lot," she added.
She even praised the Australian Olympic Committee for securing the campus of the Western Academy of Beijing where most of the athletes spend the day to get away from the Olympic village.
"Here we can just chill out and spend time with other Aussies, it's really great," the four-time Olympian said. "It's good to get away from the village because you're really starting to feel the pressure there," she said.
Halson said that she just did not have any idea whether any other country was utilising the benefits of the ice bath.