Does Low-Level Laser Therapy Decrease Muscle-Damaging Mediators After Performance in Soccer Athletes Versus Sham Laser Treatment? A Critically Appraised Topic

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Clinical Scenario: Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a controversial topic for its use in athletic recovery, mainly due to inconsistency in research regarding the application of LLLT. Articles on LLLT have assessed its effectiveness in untrained humans through pain scales, functional scales, and blood draws, and it has been found capable in nonathletic rehabilitative use. The controversy lies with LLLT in the recovering athlete. Not only do athletes need to perform at high levels, but each sport is unique in the metabolic demands placed on the athletes’ bodies. This modality can alter chemical mediators of the inflammatory process, specifically blood lactate (BL) and creatine kinase (CK). During soccer contests, it is a common problem for athletes to have an average CK level of 800 U/L and BL of 8 mmol·L, increasing delayed-onset muscle soreness and fatigue. Micro-CK level elevation is associated with cellular membrane damage, localized hypoxia, and electrolyte imbalances, hindering the recovery process. Clinical Question: Does LLLT decrease muscle-damaging mediators effecting player fatigue and delayed-onset muscle soreness after performance in soccer athletes versus sham treatment? Summary of Key Findings: In 3 studies, preperformance, postperformance, or preperformance and postperformance LLLT was performed and evaluated BL (2 of 3) and CK (2 of 3). In each article, BL and CK showed a significant decrease (P < .05) when performed either preperformance or postperformance versus the control group. The greatest decrease in these mediators was noticed when postperformance laser therapy was performed. Clinical Bottom Line: LLLT at 10, 30, or 50 J performed at a minimum of 2 locations on the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis bilaterally for 10 seconds each is significant in decreasing blood serum levels of BL and CK when performed postexercise. Strength of Recommendations: All 3 articles obtained a Physiotherapy Evidence Database score of ≥8/10.

Bettleyon is with the Department of Athletics, Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC, USA. Kaminski is with KAAP, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA.

Bettleyon (jbettleyon@methodist.edu) is corresponding author.
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