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Application—Infrared Thermal Imaging of Cross-Country Skiers and Endurance Swimmers

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Infrared Thermal Imaging of Cross-Country Skiers and Endurance Swimmers


   Infrared thermography is a non-invasive and easy-to-perform method of imaging, and it is becoming useful in different modalities of clinical medicine including sports medicine. The aim of medical infrared thermography (MIT) use in sports medicine is not to be a substitute for clinical examination, but to enhance and support it. It can be concluded that MIT is a reliable, low-cost detection tool that should be applied for pre-scanning athletes. Athletes are exposed to many physical stresses during training and competition season. Overuse reactions and so-called minor traumas are very frequent; therefore, early detection is critical to avoid injuries. Research suggests that the most beneficial application of MIT is the screening of individuals for overuse injuries. Moreover, thermal imaging can give important information about state of sportsman health and recovery after different exercises. What is more, examined changes of temperature during training, can get impact of physical stress to temperature during this training. The skin thermal response depends on a number of specific physiological adjustments as body fluid homeostasis, cardiovascular fitness, muscle metabolism and athlete’s health, which allow to establishing interesting applications in sport. In professional sport, many details as possible about athlete are needed. Using thermography can give as some more knowledge about muscle preservation.

   Endurance competitive sport such as skiing or swimming imposes substantial energy, mechanical, mental and emotional burdens on the human. On the other hand, thermography studies for swimmers were performed more often. However, we do not find any article comparing evaluation of skin temperature of athletes practicing endurance swimming and cross-country skiing taking into consideration physiological and biochemical factors also.


Figure 1. Example thermograms of body surface for cross-country skiers in front and from back surface of body registered before exercise, after exercise test.

   The aim of this study was to assess the skin temperature distribution in two groups of elite athletes: cross-country skiers and swimmers fully engaged in completely other sports as a response to the same exercise test (running on treadmill) as well as to analyse the impact of physiological and biochemical factors on skin temperature changes over the selected muscles. We would like using thermography to obtain temperature patterns characteristic for the elite sportsmen which could provide an information on body’s adaptation to physical effort, efficiency of thermoregulatory system, enabling athletes to continue performing as their highest sport level.


Figure 2. Example thermograms of body surface for swimmers in front and from back surface of body registered before exercise, after exercise test.

   Two groups of elite male athletes, a group of cross-country skiers and a group of elite endurance swimmers, were investigated. Thermal images of sportsmen’ body at front and from the rear were recorded before and about 1–2 min after exercise test using camera Flir Systems E60. The marked differentiation in skin temperature distribution in cross-country skiers and endurance swimmers subjected to the same endurance exercise on treadmill was observed. Our pilot study showed dissimilarities in skin temperature distribution in elite athletes with different sport skills subjected to the same endurance exercise on treadmill. There was significant decrease in temperature in upper body temperature in CS group, while SW group revealed a significant increase in temperature of the lower limbs. The calculated total body skin temperature was also influenced by practicing training of elite athletes. Some significant correlations of physiological, biochemical and morphological parameters (% fat) with average temperature after exercise test were found for different muscle zones in swimmers and cross-country skiers. Statistical analysis showed that workload had the most impact on skin temperature changes, especially in swimmers. The results provide additional information on the muscle work in the different sport disciplines and may be helpful in efficiency evaluation of elite athletes.


Zofia Drzazga, Mariusz Binek, Ilona Pokora, et al. A preliminary study on infrared thermal imaging of cross-country skiers and swimmers subjected to endurance exercise. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry. 134(1):701-710, 2018.


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