NIR Spectroscopy Aids Aquatic Training

Recommended reading in Journal of Biomedical Optics.

01 January 2015

Swimmers aiming to monitor and improve technique and patients striving to heal injured muscles have a new light-based tool to help them reach their goals. A paper in the Journal of Biomedical Optics (JBO) describes the first measurements of muscle oxygenation under water, and the development of the enabling technology.

Underwater near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy measurements of muscle oxygenation: laboratory validation and preliminary observations in swimmers and triathletes,” is an open-access publication in the December issue of JBO.

“There are limited methods available for real-time measurements of human performance under water,” said JBO associate editor Marco Ferrari, a professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine, Public Health, Environment, and Life Sciences at the University of L’Aquila (Italy).

“This paper is the first demonstration of the use of near-infrared spectroscopy to measure muscle oxygenation in athletes during swimming. It has implications not only as a new way to monitor sports performance, but also as a way of tracking and optimizing rehabilitation using water-based therapies such as cold-water immersion therapy.”

PortaMon-portable NIRS device (top), iSwim waterproof covering (bottom).

NIR spectroscopy is widely used in sensors for food and chemical quality control, in medical diagnostics, or in monitoring brain or nerve functions. It is increasingly used in athletics, noted lead researcher Professor Chris Cooper, head of research at the Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex (UK).

Advancements in device hardware and software, including new wireless, telemetric, and wearable devices, have made near-infrared measurements possible within a variety of field-based sports, but currently available portable devices are not waterproof. Monitoring oxygen levels in the aquatic environment will provide swimmers with valuable feedback, and help ensure that working muscles have sufficient oxygen for sustained, strong performance.

“The development of a waterproof near-infrared device will facilitate measurement of muscle oxygenation and blood flow in a previously inaccessible exercise setting,” Cooper said.

Co-authors are University of Essex researcher Ben Jones and Marco Dat of Artinis Medical Systems (The Netherlands).


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