Monitoring internal load after lockdown
After a prolonged period of inactivity or limited training, such as the current situation after confinement by COVID-19, returning to competition increases the risk of injury considerably. The combination of the level of detraining and the lack of time to prepare for a return to a very intense and frequent competition becomes an explosive mixture (Paoli and Musumeci, 2020).
There is a similar period to the current one that occurred after the NFL lockout in 2011, in which the competition was suspended for 18 weeks (from March 11 to July 25). A study analyzed the return to training and competition after that period, with 12 Achilles tendon injuries occurring in just one month, when in previous seasons the average was 5 injuries throughout the whole season (Myer et al., 2011).
Load management has been pointed out as one of the key factors to reduce the injury incidence. There are two types of loads: external and internal. In order to quantify them, there are different technologies and methods (such as GPS, force platform, encoder, heart rate monitor, TMG, etc.) that allow performance professionals to have control of these variables to know the performance and individual assimilation of loads. (Bahr and Krosshaug, 2005).
In this sense, infrared thermography is a technology that measures the temperature of the skin and stands out because it is fast, non-invasive and offers objective data. Both thermal asymmetry between contralateral regions and a significant decrease or increase over a period may indicate an increased risk of injury, as described by Tumilty et al in a study on Achilles tendon with thermography (2019).
The key is that the temperature provides us with objective and quantifiable information on the physiological state of the tissues. Its variation is closely related to the individual and localized assimilation of the load. That is why it becomes a key tool for injury prevention, as well as for monitoring injuries and return to play decisions (Hildebrandt et al., 2012).
Paoli, A.; Musumeci, G. Elite Athletes and COVID-19 Lockdown: Future Health Concerns for an Entire Sector. J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 2020, 5, 30.
Myer, G. D., Faigenbaum, A. D., Cherny, C. E., Heidt Jr, R. S., & Hewett, T. E. (2011). Did the NFL lockout expose the Achilles heel of competitive sports?.
Tumilty, S., Adhia, D. B., Smoliga, J. M., & Gisselman, A. S. (2019). Thermal profiles over the Achilles tendon in a cohort of non-injured collegiate athletes over the course of a cross country season. Physical Therapy in Sport, 36, 110-115.
Bahr R, Krosshaug T. (2005). Understanding injury mechanisms: a key component of preventing injuries in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2005;39:324-329.
Hildebrandt, C., Zeilberger, K., Ring, E. F. J., & Raschner, C. (2012). The application of medical Infrared Thermography in sports medicine. In K. R. Zaslav (Ed.), An International Perspective on Topics in Sports Medicine and Sports Injury (pp. 257-274): InTech.