Startup bringing ‘whole body cryotherapy’ to athletes
Ellie Hensley-Staff Writer-Atlanta Business Chronicle
- An Atlanta startup could change the way professional athletes treat muscle fatigue and injuries.Impact Cryotherapy, a company started in early June by local entrepreneurRichard Otto and his business partnerJohnny Mann, manufactures and sells a whole-body cryotherapy system that is comparable to a 20-minute ice bath, but takes three minutes or less.
Impact Cryo has the support of Dr. James Andrews, the Birmingham, Ala.-based orthopedic surgeon who has repaired damaged elbow ligaments for some ofMajor League Baseball’s top pitchers. Andrews will head the company’s advisory board.
Here’s how it works: Users step into a dry octagonal chamber that resembles a stand-up tanning bed. Nitrogen gas allows the machine to quickly get down to as low as -188 degrees Celsius, which lowers the temperature of the skin’s outer layer, slows the flow of blood and pushes it toward the body’s core, reducing inflammation and speeding muscle recovery.
Otto, the company’s CEO, said the process is harmless and causes much less pain than a traditional ice bath.
“I think [whole body cryotherapy] is more efficient than an ice bath …” said Dr. Josh Glass of Georgia Sports Chiropractic. “Not many people are going to get an ice bath all the way up to their head… so it does get more surface area.”
Whole body cryotherapy was first used more than 30 years ago in Japan to treat rheumatic injuries, and companies in Poland and Ukraine, called CryoMed andJuka, respectively, have been making the machines with athletes in mind since the mid-1980s.
They have distributed their products throughout Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, the United States. Atlanta even has its own facility, Icebox Cryotherapy, which uses Ukrainian equipment.
Impact Cryotherapy is the first to have machines designed and manufactured in the United States. The design allows the machine to run for more consecutive sessions than its predecessors before it needs to warm back up, Otto said.
Otto, who previously held positions at telemedicine company Reach Health Inc. and biopharmaceutical manufacturer Coratus Genetics Inc., acquired the intellectual property for Impact Cryo’s machine from an engineer in Kansas City, Kan., after seeing it in February. Shortly after, he founded Impact Cryo with Mann.
Impact Cryo’s manufacturing is handled by a company in Lawrenceville, Ga., calledPartnerTech. Otto is still searching the metro area for a location to serve as the company’s headquarters, showroom and retail space where people can pay per session to use the machines. It will cost about $55 per session. Other locations in the country charge as much as $90.
The company currently has only four full-time employees, but once headquarters are up and running,Otto plans to add up to 30 jobs. He is also exploring the possibility of franchising the brand within the next several months.
The system itself costs about $45,000, while European models can run anywhere from $40,000 to more than $60,000. It’s a high cost for the average individual to bear, which is one reason the company is targeting professional and collegiate sports teams, high-end health clubs and PGA players. The company’s goal is to get 15 professional sports teams to purchase the system.
Prior studies have been conducted on the European equipment, but Impact Cryo has yet to begin any formal research.
“What they’re saying makes sense conceptually, but … Without [further study], it’s hard to say,” said Dr. Brandon Mines, assistant professor and sports medicine physician at Emory Sports Medicine Clinic.
The company has several studies planned for early next year.