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J Athl Train. 1996 Oct-Dec; 31(4): 319–323.
PMCID: PMC1318915

Ankle and Thigh Skin Surface Temperature Changes With Repeated Ice Pack Application

Janice E. Palmer, MA, ATC
Janice E. Palmer is



Most of the research on cold applications has been performed on nonexercising supine subjects during a single cold pack application. Most athletic injuries occur during exercise, which increases skin temperature. Exercise before ice application will also increase ankle skin temperature during the rewarming phase. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of activity on subsequent ice pack applications and rewarming using standard immediate care procedures.

Design and Setting:

Three experimental conditions (20-, 30-, and 40-minute ice pack applications) were applied to 12 subjects in a repeated measures design. Subjects rode a bicycle ergometer for 15 minutes before ice application to the ankle and opposite thigh, and were active (walking with crutches, simulated showering and dressing) for 20 minutes following application. Subjects rested with the limb elevated for an additional 40 minutes. Ice packs were then reapplied for the appropriate time (20, 30, or 40 minutes) followed by 60 minutes of rest with the limb elevated.


Twelve (8 males, 4 females) college-aged volunteers. Only subjects with good-to-high fitness levels were accepted for this study.


Ankle skin, thigh skin, and atmospheric temperatures were measured every minute using an Isothermex (Columbus Instruments, Columbus, OH).


Thigh temperature changes during the first ice application were greater during the 30- and 40-minute conditions than the 20-minute condition. Ankle and thigh temperature changes during the first ice application and rewarming, and for the entire trial were greater during the 40-minute condition than the 20-or 30-minute conditions. Throughout the first ice application and rewarming, and the entire trial, thigh temperature changes were greater during the 30-minute condition than the 20-minute condition.


During immediate care procedures following injury, ice packs should be reapplied immediately following showering, changing clothes, and returning home.

Full text

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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