Before you submit yourself to something as painful and unpleasant as an ice bath, you want to be sure it's doing something worthwhile. So how do ice baths work?
When you submit yourself to an ice bath, the frigid water makes your blood vessels tighten. This forces the blood from your legs, taking some of the accumulated lactic acid with it.
After 5 or 10 minutes, when your legs are cold and numb, and you get out of the bath, your legs are flooded with fresh blood, loaded with oxygen and nutrients. This will replenish your muscles and soft tissues, and at the same time continue the process of removing the lactic acid as this fresh blood flows through your limbs.
Ice baths are now standard procedure in high contact sports like rugby and American Football, and also among many endurance athletes. Although there is little researched based evidence for their effectiveness, they have become widely accepted as useful tool for pro athletes.
But are they necessary, helpful, or even possible for regular athletes and sports people?