Underwater near-infrared spectroscopy can measure training adaptations in adolescent swimmers


The development of an underwater near-infrared spectroscopy (uNIRS) device has enabled previously unattainable measurements of peripheral muscle hemodynamics and oxygenation to be taken within the natural aquatic environment. The purposes of this study were (i) to trial the use of uNIRS, in a real world training study, and (ii) to monitor the effects of a swim training program upon muscle oxygenation status in short distance swimming. A total of 14 junior club level swimmers completed a repeated swim sprint test before and after an eight week endurance training program. A waterproof, portable Near-Infrared Spectroscopy device was attached to the vastus lateralis. uNIRS successfully measured changes in muscle oxygenation and blood volume in all individuals; rapid sub-second time resolution of the device was able to demonstrate muscle oxygenation changes during the characteristic swim movements. Post training heart rate recovery and swim performance time were significantly improved. uNIRS data also showed significant changes. A larger rise in deoxyhemoglobin during individual sprints suggested training induced an increase in muscle oxygen extraction; a faster recovery time for muscle oxygenation suggested positive training induced changes and significant changes in muscle blood flow also occur. As a strong correlation was seen between an increased reoxygenation rate and an improved swim performance time, these findings support the use of uNIRS as a new performance analysis tool in swimming.