BFR & Muscle Injuries

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Hamstring pulls or strains are one of the most common injuries amongst athletes. They have a reputation for lingering and reoccurring throughout the season.

When a muscle is injured, Myostatin and TGF beta act together to fill in the tear with fibrotic tissue. Unfortunately fibrotic tissue or scar tissue, is not as elastic as muscle and tends to break or rip instead of stretch.

BFR has been proven to produce muscle hypertrophy & protein synthesis at loads far below the traditional 65-85% 1RM without the coinciding muscle breakdown, which makes it a great way to load injured muscle tissue.

Low load BFR exercise takes away oxygen as a fuel source and allows aerobic movement tasks to be carried out by the anaerobic system.  Anaerobic muscle activity creates lactate build-up which initiates Growth Hormone release and subsequent collagen synthesis essential for tissue healing.

BFR has been found to down regulate Myostatin, this means that if we use BFR with our muscle injuries we may have a better chance of obtaining true non-fibrotic healing of the muscle tissue.

Above is a progression of low load exercises that have been working for my athletes.

BFR for In-Season Athlete Management

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Blood Flow Restriction Training/Therapy is an excellent way to manage athletes during the season.  As athletes progress in competition level, the volume of sport specific activities increase while recovery and down regulation practices decrease.  Over the course of the season, athletes tend to breakdown,  loosing muscle mass & strength while developing ligament sprains, muscle strains, stiffness & acute tendinopathies.  In-season periodized strength training, corrective exercises and mobility work can be helpful in maintaining off-season gains and reducing injury risk.  However, traditional strength training leads to muscle breakdown prior to muscle growth, and some athletes may be dealing with acute injuries that prevent them from being able to load at an appropriate percentage.

BFR allows athletes to build muscle, prevent atrophy, and load irritated tendons at 10-20% 1RM while reaping the benefits of working at 60-80% 1RM.  Because loading takes place around 20% there is no muscle breakdown and is tolerable to achy joints or irritated tendons.

The mechanism of BFR also stimulates the release of Human Growth Hormone which is responsible for collagen synthesis.  Collagen synthesis is how muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone heal.  Meaning athletes will be able to recover quicker, maintain strength and optimize performance throughout the season.

Clinical Application

In the video I am working with a College Baseball Pitcher that is experiencing medial forearm wrist flexor pain and stiffness after pitching outings.  The goal of the BFR treatment is to create lactate buildup and cell swelling, stress the irritated tissues at a low pain free load, build posterior cuff strength and strengthen the stride leg in a task specific environment.  The 3 UE treatments are specific to the Right arm tissues while the 1 LE treatment does provide specific Left leg benefits but the goal is more of a global Growth Hormone response because of larger muscle group activation.

Share this article with someone you think it will help, and for more info on BFR check out OwensRecoveryScience.com