Sports injuries often occur among both professional athletes and those who engage in sport during their spare time. Soft tissue injuries are a particularly common type of sports injury and can include bruising, tendon inflammation, ligament strain and muscle sprain. Generally, the limbs are affected, though other body parts such as the neck or head can be impacted. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, numbness and loss of movement. Recovery usually occurs reasonably quickly, though effective treatment of these injuries can help speed up the healing process and allow athletes to return to their training routine sooner.
Hydrogen is considered to be beneficial in the treatment of inflammation and oxidative stress, so there is reason to believe that it may also be advantageous for athletes recovering from soft tissue injuries to be treated with hydrogen. In one scientific study, 36 professional male athletes who had sustained soft tissue injuries after participating in sport, took part in a 2-week trial to assess how well hydrogen reduces inflammation and promotes recovery. The athletes were divided into 3 groups: a control group and 2 test groups. All the subjects were treated with RICE protocol (rest, ice, compress, elevate) and then sub-acute protocol involving stretching, strength exercises and weight-bearing exercises. In addition to these measures, the first test group (HYD1) was also treated with oral hydrogen and the second test group (HYD2) was treated with oral hydrogen and topical hydrogen. Subjects were evaluated within 24 hours of having sustained their injuries and then after 7 and 14 days of that initial assessment. Blood tests were carried out to measure indicators of inflammation; pain intensity, joint flexibility and limb swelling were also assessed.
Plasma viscosity can be a marker of how much inflammation is present, with higher viscosity indicating a greater amount of inflammation. In the groups receiving hydrogen treatment, particularly HYD2, plasma viscosity decreased to a greater extent than the control group, indicating that the subjects in these groups experienced a more significant reduction in inflammation. This anti-inflammatory effect is likely at least partly due to hydrogen’s antioxidant properties. Hydrogen treatment also resulted in a better recovery of range of motion (ROM) in the affected joint, both with bending and extension movements. This was the case with both HYD1 and HYD2, though HYD2 subjects had the most significant recovery.
Treatment with hydrogen was found to assist in the increase of ROM and enhance inflammation decrease, as shown by lower plasma viscosity levels. These results suggest that oral and topical hydrogen may be effective complementary treatments when recovering from a soft tissue injury. These treatments were found to be particularly effective when used in combination. This indicates that drinking hydrogen water, along with conventional treatment, could also be of benefit to athletes with damage to the soft tissue by reducing inflammation and improving movement. As a result, athletes will be helped to recover sooner from their injuries so that they can get back to training.