The use of ice or cryotherapy, is a remarkably effective treatment of acute athletic injuries. A variety of treatment forms exist, including ice packs, ice sticks, and vapocoolants (ethyl chloride spray). Chemical packs are a recent development and must be handled with care. The chemicals can occasionally leak and cause local chemical burns. When an ice pack is used, the materials can be brought to a playing field in an ice chest, but the physician must be able to tell patients how to use ice at home. When an ice bag is used, the patient should be instructed to crush the ice cubes, so that the ice bag can be molded around the site of injury. This provides an equal distribution of the cold so as to achieve a more rapid and complete cooling of the area. In fact, there should be an attempt to get the ice around the limb. Thus, two packs may be preferable.
Cold should be applied for about 20 minutes per hour for 24 hours after the injury. The amount of time that the ice is applied will vary with the amount of overlying fat.