Views:2 Author:Site Editor Publish Time: 2020-11-11 Origin:Site
The important evaluation of infrared thermal imaging in sports
Infrared thermography (IRT) records the radiant heat of a body, which is emitted in the range of the electromagnetic spectrum that human vision is not able to identify. The thermal response depends on a number of specific physiological adjustments as body homeostasis and athlete’s health, which allow us to establishing interesting applications in sport. We conclude that the main contribution of IRT in the field of sport is to help identify signs of injury before it occurs, allowing us to act proactively along the training process.
Applications based on new technologies are constantly emerging from the world of sport. Many of them allow us to evaluate the needs of the athlete, which is used by coaches to try to maximize the performance of the athlete. An example of this are the technologies that help prevent possible injuries or that allow us to accelerate the recovery of the athletes once the injury has occurred. Given the current high level of demand in professional sports, technological innovation is particularly relevant.
Infrared thermography (IRT) is a technique that allows visualization of the heat radiated from the body through registration of infrared emission, which is in a spectrum that the human eye is unable to identify. This technique is now used extensively in various areas as the oil and gas industry, aviation, civil and military construction or veterinary. In humans, those applications are mainly focused in the medical field as thermography allows assessment of physiological responses associated to skin temperature, helping in the identification of a number of problems related to different types of pain syndromes, heart interventions, vascular deficiencies, neurological or even in studies related to diagnosis and monitoring of cancer.
Figure 1. Thermograms indicating thermal assymetries in the knee and anterior leg.
The work of Albert et al. is considered the first in which thermography is used to evaluate a musculoskeletal disorder. Later, in the study of Clark et al. we found the first reference of thermal monitoring in different environments (20°C vs 10°C) with exercise performed in treadmill. However, due to technological difficulties, the quality of the equipment, the cost and the speed for data analysis, this technique has not proliferated in the world of sport. However, the recent technological advances in this sector have allowed the construction of more reliable, economical, manageable equipment with almost immediate software for the analysis of the data, improving the possibility of using this technique in several sport fields.
Several studies have concluded that thermography is a technology of great validity. They are regarded as positive points being a low-cost technique, noninvasive, fast and safe, without emitting radiation, highly reproducible, without physical contact with the evaluated, and enabling track real-time temperature of the subject, building a general and/or local thermal profile through the division of the body into what are called regions of interest (ROI). Consequently, daily use of thermography in sports allows rapid assessment of quantitative and qualitative manner, in addition to monitoring the thermal response of the athlete, which in turn may provide us with relevant information not only for increasing the athletes’ performance but also for their health.
Given that certain physiological disorders may influence the local exchange thermal response or, the use of thermography in sports can help prevent muscle, joint or tendon injuries since, in case of overuse or overtraining the local temperature of the affected areas may be increased, compared to other similar or to the contralateral body region. Infrared thermography can detect thermal asymmetry that could lead to injury, with its consequent impact on performance and health of athletes, team planning and even, considering professional sport or high performance, the benefits for the athlete or club.
The wide range of applications of this new technique in sports provides, for example, a greater amount of information on the athletes’ state, which is a key factor to plan a highly personalized training. The athlete should be the main beneficiary of the new technologies, which, can be used to meet all the needs arising from the high-level sport. When applied properly by professionals, infrared thermography may be successfully used in different areas of sport.