The use of thermography in sports: a technology with added value in the sports environment.
One of the environments with the greatest technological adoption is sports institutions, where performance improvement and optimization in decision-making processes are supported in most cases using big data with technology.
For the use of technological big data, different tools and professional profiles will benefit from the information extracted from the use of technology.
Meanwhile, some tools are well established in the practical section of health and medical professionals, and that has been used for a long time to control the state of structures, such as ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), etc. New practices are also emerging that help in clinical assessment through technologies such as accelerometers or motion capture sensors to analyze the kinematics of movement.
On the other hand, sports professionals have also included numerous tools in their daily practice to analyze the performance of athletes and be able to quantify the processes. Many of these currents of analysis with data come from the need to quantify the process, because as William Thomson Kelvin (Lord Kelvin), British physicist and mathematician (1824 – 1907) said, “What is not defined cannot be measured. What is not measured cannot be improved. What is not improved, always deteriorates”.
Difference between technologies to measure internal and external load.
Among the technologies that stand out the most in performance measurement, it is necessary to differentiate between those in charge of measuring the internal load and those in charge of measuring the external load.
When we talk about external load, we refer to the measure of work that an athlete is prescribed, that is, it is that training that is included in the planning and that can be counted in time, distance, repetitions, tonnage, etc. It is the prescribed data of training that the athlete is going to do.
However, when we talk about internal load, we are referring to the physiological reaction that a particular athlete has to that previous training prescription, this response to training can be measured during training or in the hours, or even days, afterward. The effect that training causes on the body of an athlete will not be the same, neither inter-individual nor intra- individual, depending on many factors, which is why we need technologies that measure how the athlete is responding to the stimulus to adapt to the subsequent external loads.
We are going to explain a case to exemplify both load variables. The day after the game, a soccer team has been scheduled to work at 65% of the VAM for 15 minutes, the work is done by the whole team, but it must be taken into account that there were players who played 90 minutes the day before and Others who were substitutes, before this training stimulus that has volume and intensity, not all the players will react the same (while for the substitute players, this work surely does not imply an adaptive stimulus, for those who played 90 minutes this stimulus will be a regenerative work ideal aerobic after the game), but
also if the same stimulus were repeated 3 days later by the same player (it would not have the same effect either because it would go from being a regenerative aerobic stimulus to an aerobic stimulus below the adaptation threshold).
For this reason, external load control technologies are more understandable and widespread because they are more comprehensive measurements that can be easily identified and reproduced, are interpreted in a very simple way, and provide precise information. While internal load control technologies are more complex because their interpretation requires in-depth knowledge of the tool and the state of the individual.
Thermography in sports: a technology with added value
Thanks to its different applications, thermography will be able to help different professionals within a sports institution. Due to the sensitivity concerning the tissue underlying the analyzed body region and the global identification of patterns that can inform about the fatigue state of athletes.
Both the medical “staff” and the technical “staff” will be able to extract relevant information from thermography as a technology with added value.
Since the medical staff will be able to interpret the images according to the thermal patterns to support the diagnosis, in a fast and non-invasive way. As well as, if they occur, follow-up on sports injuries until their recovery, which normally occurs with a return to normality, homeostasis, of the temperature of the injured region.
In addition, both the medical and technical staff will benefit from the injury prevention application: detecting the body regions that have a thermal asymmetry that can lead to an increased risk of injury.
Finally, technical staff can use thermography to control workloads through the application of the identification of the type of fatigue, an application that, through global temperature patterns, differentiates the thermal response according to two profiles, hyperthermia or hypothermic. A recent application that stems from Thorpe’s research (2021).
Thorpe RT (2021) Post-exercise Recovery: Cooling and Heating, a Periodized Approach. Front. Sports Act. Living 3:707503. doi 10.3389/fspor.2021.707503