Callie Ledford, Kayla Dendy, FACSM, Rebecca R. Rogers, Christopher G. Ballmann, FACSM, Tyler D. Williams. Samford, Birmingham, AL.

BACKGROUND: Topical menthol cream has an analgesic effect that has been shown to reduce muscular pain following intense physical activity. Currently, there has been minimal investigation of the efficacy of topical menthol cream to reduce muscular discomfort during exercise and the potential effects on performance. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of topical menthol cream on anaerobic exercise performance during repeated supramaximal cycle sprints. METHODS: Twelve physically active females were recruited for this study. In a double-blinded, counterbalanced, crossover design, subjects received a topical application of a 10% menthol cream or placebo to the anterior and posterior thigh prior to exercise testing. During each trial, subjects completed 3 sets of 15-second modified Wingate anaerobic tests (WAnT) with 2 minutes of rest between each sprint. Peak power, mean power, fatigue index, and total work were measured and recorded. Additionally, perceived exertion and pain perception were recorded following each sprint. A 2 × 3 repeated measures analysis of variance was used to determine differences between conditions for each outcome measure. RESULTS: Peak power (p = 0.021) and fatigue index (p = 0.022) were significantly higher in the menthol condition compared to placebo. There were no differences in other performance variables between conditions (p > 0.05). Perceived exertion was significantly lower in the menthol condition during the WAnT 1 (p = 0.031), however, there were no differences in subsequent sprints (p > 0.05). Muscular discomfort during the sprint tests was not different between conditions (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: Based on the results of this study, topical menthol cream leads to increased peak power output, but may lead to greater fatigue during sprint performance.

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