Military medicine: How a German war surgeon invented the ice pack
The medical breakthroughs that began on the battlefield.
This week: Ice packs
ANYONE who has twisted an ankle or overdone it at the gym knows the benefits of applying ice to bring down the swelling. And they have a German war surgeon called Johann Friedrich August von Esmarch to thank for the idea.
He came up with it when trying to deal with injuries sustained by troops during wars against Denmark and France in the 19th century.
When injured, fluid leaks out of blood vessels in the vicinity, triggering inflammation in the surrounding area. Applying an ice pack, or a cold press, makes these blood vessels constrict, stemming the leak and reducing swelling.
It was so effective, later becoming one of the foundations of first aid training, it earned von him the nickname ‘Fritz the Ice Pack'.
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