Underwater Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: Muscle Oxygen Changes in the Upper and Lower Extremities in Club Level Swimmers and Triathletes

  • B. JonesEmail author
  • C. E. Cooper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 876)


To date, measurements of oxygen status during swim exercise have focused upon systemic aerobic capacity. The development of a portable, waterproof NIRS device makes possible a local measurement of muscle hemodynamics and oxygenation that could provide a novel insight into the physiological changes that occur during swim exercise. The purpose of this study was to observe changes in muscle oxygenation in the vastus lateralis (VL) and latissimus dorsi (LD) of club level swimmers and triathletes. Ten subjects, five club level swimmers and five club level triathletes (three men and seven women) were used for assessment. Swim group; mean ± SD = age 21.2 ± 1.6 years; height 170.6 ± 7.5 cm; weight 62.8 ± 6.9 kg; vastus lateralis skin fold 13.8 ± 5.6 mm; latissimus dorsi skin fold 12.6 ± 3.7. Triathlete group; mean ± SD = age 44.0 ± 10.5 years; height 171.6 ± 7.0 cm; weight 68.6 ± 12.7 kg; vastus lateralis skin fold 11.8 ± 3.5 mm; latissimus dorsi skin fold 11.2 ± 3.1. All subjects completed a maximal 200 m freestyle swim, with the PortaMon, a portable NIR device, attached to the subject’s dominant side musculature. ΔTSI % between the vastus lateralis and latissimus dorsi were analysed using either paired (2-tailed) t-tests or Wilcoxon signed rank test. The level of significance for analysis was set at p < 0.05. No significant difference (p = 0.686) was found in ΔTSI (%) between the VL and LD in club level swimmers. A significant difference (p = 0.043) was found in ΔTSI (%) between the VL and LD in club level triathletes. Club level swimmers completed the 200 m freestyle swim significantly faster (p = 0.04) than club level triathletes. Club level swimmers use both the upper and lower muscles to a similar extent during a maximal 200 m swim. Club level triathletes predominately use the upper body for propulsion during the same exercise. The data produced by NIRS in this study are the first of their kind and provide insight into muscle oxygenation changes during swim exercise which can indicate the contribution of one muscle compared to another. This also enables a greater understanding of the differences in swimming techniques seen between different cohorts of swimmers and potentially within individual swimmers.


Underwater NIRS Swimming Muscleoxygenation 



We like to especially thank all the athletes and swim coaches for their time and effort during this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Centre for Sports and Exercise ScienceUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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