By Darren Rovell
In November, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Manny Harris got into a Cryon-X machine on Nike's campus in Beaverton, Ore. When he came out, he had a nasty freezer burn on the side of his right foot.
"I saw the pictures of it and I said, 'Oh, my God,'" Cavs coach Byron Scott told the News-Herald.
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Unable to be seen by team physicians because the lockout was still in place, Harris reportedly tried to let it heal on its own. The burn set him back so much, he couldn’t compete for his job and was waived by the team last week when the Cavs decided to pick undrafted rookie Mychel Thompson over the former University of Michigan star.
The machine is the new age version of an ice bath and is the latest in athlete recovery methods. In just three minutes, the company that makes it, Millennium ICE, says the machine cranks the temperature inside to minus 166 degrees Fahrenheit, thus oxygenating the blood, helping to reduce fatigue and muscle soreness.
But the waiver that each athlete has to sign before getting into the stand-up tank specifically says that the briefs and socks that are worn while in the machine cannot be wet. Sources told CNBC that Harris got in with wet socks, which resulted in the freezer-type burn. It's not the first time this has happened. Sprinter Justin Gatlin also got in with the socks he had just worked out in when he entered the Cryon-X machine at ESPN's Wide World of Sports in Orlando.
"The socks froze to me instantly," Gatlin told the Associated Press in August before the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. "It was like walking on fiery pins and needles. It was all pussed up and blistered. It bubbled up and it stayed bubbled for a good four or five days." Gatlin didn't qualify for the 100 meter final at the event.
Although there haven't been any definitive U.S. studies on cryotherapy's effectiveness, Millennium ICE is doing well and the machine is gaining traction. The Mavericks used it last season and the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs just bought machines that cost $50,000 each. That's why company CEO Eric Rauscher doesn't want other athletes to miss the waiver warnings about wet clothes.
"We will now be posting the warning on the machine itself," Rauscher said.
Rauscher said teams have also made sure that the players take precautions. "The Rockets training staff won't let players get into the machine unless they change into fresh socks in front of them," Rauscher said.
Harris hasn't had an easy road to the NBA. An ankle injury before last year's draft led to him not being picked. He made the league minimum of $473,604 last year and proved to be serviceable, appearing in 54 games and averaging 5.9 points and 2.6 rebounds. He was due to make about $630,000 this year. He'll now likely head to the D-League where he'll hope to get picked up by another NBA team.
"The focus is simply on getting Manny back on the court as quickly as possible,” said his agent Henry Thomas of Creative Artists Agency. “His foot is almost completely healed and he is anxious to get back out there to play and show how his game has improved from his rookie season."
Because Cryon-X has a waiver, as does Nike with everything athletes use on campus, Nike doesn’t have any legal exposure in Harris' case.
Said Thomas: "Nike has been and will continue to be very supportive to Manny throughout the healing process."