Muscle oxygenation in-vivo

Our paper on the possibility of using Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to measure muscle oxygenation in-vivo in elite athletes has now been published ahead of print by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

This study is the first of a series of studies constituting the PhD studentship funded by the BOA to study the possibility of using NIRS in the field as a tool to understand performance demands and adaptations to training as well as developing innovative portable integrated brain and muscle devices. The research programme is a collaboration between ourselves, the University of Essex with Professor Chris Cooper and Professor Clare Elwell at University College London.

The main author of this work is Catherine Hesford and you can find more info and contact details here.

More work will be published in the next months and I will write more about this fascinating technique soon on this blog.

The abstracts is available below.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Sep 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Asymmetry of Quadriceps Muscle Oxygenation During Elite Short-Track Speed Skating.

Hesford CM, Laing S, Cardinale M, Cooper CE.


1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, UK; 2 British Olympic Medical Institute, University College London, UK; 3 University of Aberdeen, School of Medical Sciences, Aberdeen, Scotland (UK), 4 School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, UK.


It has been suggested that due to the low sitting position in short track speed skating, muscle blood flow is restricted, leading to decreases in tissue oxygenation. Therefore wearable wireless-enabled Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) technology was used to monitor changes in quadriceps muscle blood volume and oxygenation during 500m race simulation in short-track speed skaters.


6 elite skaters, all of Olympic standard (age = 23 ± 1.8 years, height 1.8 ± 0.1m, mass = 80.1 ± 5.7kg, mid-thigh skin fold thickness = 6.8 ± 2.2mm) were studied. Subjects completed a 500m race simulation time trial (TT). Whole body oxygen consumption was simultaneously measured with muscle oxygenation in right and left vastus lateralis as measured by NIRS.


Mean time for race completion was 44.8 ± 0.4 s. VO peaked 20 s into the race. In contrast, muscle tissue oxygen saturation (TSI %) decreased, and plateaued after 8s. Linear regression analysis showed that right leg TSI% remained constant throughout the rest of the TT (slope value = 0.01), whereas left leg TSI% increased steadily (slope value = 0.16), leading to a significant asymmetry (p<0.05) in the final lap. Total muscle blood volume decreased equally in both legs at the start of the simulation. However, during the course of subsequent laps there was a strong asymmetry during cornering; when skaters travelled solely on the right leg there was a decrease in its muscle blood volume whereas an increase was seen in the left leg.


NIRS was shown to be a viable tool for wireless monitoring of muscle oxygenation. The asymmetry in muscle desaturation observed on the two legs in short-track speed skating has implications for training and performance.

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