The use of electrostimulation in sports
We all know that sports, specifically the ones that require a high level, entails special qualities that need to be trained and empowered, sometimes demanding the athlete excessive locomotive efforts. Therefore, we should always prepare the system for these demands, and consider the sports specialty, the type of patient and the stage of the pathology.
There are different methods that focus a variety of cases, such as the treatment of a pathology, the retraining of sporting activity, muscle reinforcement or injury prevention.
What does neuromuscular electrical stimulation do?
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) or electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) “consists of the application of an electric current to the muscle or peripheral nerve in order to achieve an involuntary muscle contraction“. Although EMS has been a technique used mainly in the field of rehabilitation, studies by Kotz in the 1970’s allowed to introduce this method to improve the performance of athletes.
The local application electrostimulators are available in the market to be used by athletes since the end of the 90’s.
The novelty of integral electro-stimulation centers lies in the implementation of the EMS comprehensively. That is, by applying electrical currents to different regions or muscle groups at the same time. It is therefore that i-motion created the top-of-the-range biojacket with high quality in its circuit of electrodes, because it is able to cover large muscle groups to different frequencies and current characteristics manipulable by the therapist or trainer.
In the Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) in sport, both dynamic and static, standard impulse width parameters are commonly used. In this way, for the lower limb, in the thigh and calf, experts use amplitudes ranging from 200 to 400 microseconds.
What is the ultimate goal of sports electrostimulation?
The electrostimulation in sport is used in order to increase the recruitment of muscle fibers to increase muscle strength. The strength training methodology refers to the importance of the intensity and the load volume, among other aspects.
The increase in muscle strength with electrostimulation has been amply demonstrated by different authors. The muscle fiber, with an electrical stimulus, responds with an intensity of different contraction according to the scale of the stimulus and its frequency.
Then, electrical stimulation is a technique whose methodology will vary depending on the pathology that we address, the type of patient and the sought objectives. In this case, we focus on the athletes, where the methodology that is used to apply electrical stimulation is based on three methods that will cover different types of athletes and the different pathologies stages: static electro-stimulation in dynamic muscle shortening dynamic and static electro-stimulation on muscle stretching.
Currents in sports electrostimulation
We do not have a unification of criteria that demonstrate scientific rigor under what type of current gives us better excitomotor response. We have many currents for this purpose, but we must bear in mind the parameters for focusing it toward a particular goal.
We know that a slow fiber response times are greater than the ones of a quick fiber, so it can be said that slow fibers need longer impulses times than the fasters, and lower frequencies. Therefore, as a guide, it depends on the physiology of each one.
We can say that the fast fibers need impulses times of 300 microseconds and higher frequencies than 50 Hz. In slow fibers, the impulse time will be greater than the faster and with a lower frequency. We must always bear in mind that there are not only two types of fibers, but rather we have intermediate fibers.
Contraction and relaxation times will adapt to the exercise the patient will be doing. Thus, if the quadriceps, in dynamic electro-stimulation, takes to extend the knee, for example, 1 second, we will add another 2 seconds to keep the extension. No more, because if we add more the contraction will be painful.
In the case of static electro-stimulation, the contraction is usually 3 to 5 seconds depending on the intensity. As a general rule, the standing time doubled the one of the contraction.
The objectives of the use of electrostimulation in high level athletes, through electrodes in a biojacket (i-motion full body vest), are multiple:
- Prevent muscular atrophy because of sports rest.
- Tone and start with a significant atrophy muscle strengthening.
- Strengthening without friction on the surface of the joint.
- Cause voltage variations in the periarticular structures to maintain their sliding in periods of immobilization.
- Strengthen the muscles when you already have a strength level.
- Re-adaptation to exercise.
- Improve coordination.
- Muscle strengthening.
- Improves muscle elasticity and joint amplitude.
- Strengthening tendons.
In addition, they are recommended in the following cases:
- Preoperative and postoperative.
- Periods of immobilization.
- Muscular atrophy
- Bursitis, chondropathy and tendonitis.
- Joint instabilities.
- Muscle decompensation
- Muscle contraction.
- Re-adaptation of muscular injuries.
- Muscular re-adaptation phases after immobilization periods.
- Muscle weakness, with no muscular atrophy.
- Any situation in which we may need to do complex FNP exercises.
As indicated, we have various methods to strengthen or achieve other goals with our athletes depending on the pathology and the objective sought, but in any case, we will consider them as isolated and exclusive means of other strengthening methods. On the contrary, they are there to decide which to use in each case and how to combine them if we consider it appropriate. Thanks to the devices for electrical muscle stimulation for sports with i-motion we have one more tool as therapists in our treatments to high level athletes.
- Pérez Machado JL, Álamo Arce DD. Estudio comparativo entre los estiramientos musculares mediante tensión activa y electroestimulación. Fisioterapia 2001;23(1):10-4
- Benito E. Electroestimulación. Aumento de la fuerza muscular medida por el test de Bosco. Fisioterapia y calidad de vida. 11, 27-33. 2008