Load Monitoring & Injury Prevention with Infrared Thermography
Injuries can be related to variations in regional blood flow. These changes in blood flwo can affect the skins temperature, which can increase in the case of inflammation or decrease in the case of tissues with poor perfusion, degeneration, or reduced muscular and metabolic activity. Additionally, individuals with overuse injuries can present in alterations in skin temperature and thermal asymmetries.
When i'm working with sports teams or military organizations one of my recommendations is to evaluate the thermal profiles of athletes pre-season or before periods of strenous training, then do a series of follow up assessments. This can be very valueable since ipsilateral and contralateral thermal asymmetries are highly correlated with injury risk.
As a result, infrared thermography analysis (ITA) can allow a coach or athlete to identify areas and regions of interest that need specific attention as well as the ideal ratio between training, rest, and therapy to address and prevent issues.
ITA can also be used for the purpise of treatment modification in athletes who already present with an injury, whether they show up to pre-season practice that way or if they sustain it during the training / competition season.
The picture above shows an athlete's before and after thermograms (left and right respectivley). This athlete was presenting with right achilles pain and was diagnosed with achilled tendonitis. Despite reduced activity and treatment for that issue they weren't making meaningful improvements. When taking a thermogram it because clear that it wasn't tendonitis that was plagueing them, but a tendonopathy. Tendonitis is an inflamatory issue. which would appear as a hyperthermic region on a thermogram, but you can see that the injured right achilled has a hypothermic region (blue) instead. After modifying treatment based on this information, with the help of their treatment staff, they were able to successfully return to training and you can see that reflected in the thermal symetry between both sides in the after picture.