Cryotherapy for post-exercise recovery remains widely used despite the lack of quality evidence. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) studies (with both low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy) have demonstrated positive scientific evidence to suggest its use. The study aims to evaluate PBMT and cryotherapy as a single or combined treatment on skeletal muscle recovery after eccentric contractions of knee extensors. Fifty healthy male volunteers were recruited and randomized into five groups (PBMT, cryotherapy, cryotherapy + PBMT, PMBT + cryotherapy, or placebo) for a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial that evaluated exercise performance (maximum voluntary contraction (MVC)), delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and muscle damage (creatine kinase (CK)). Assessments were performed at baseline; immediately after; and at 1, 24, 48, 72, and 96 h. Comparator treatments was performed 3 min after exercise and repeated at 24, 48, and 72 h. PBMT was applied employing a cordless, portable GameDay™ device (combination of 905 nm super-pulsed laser and 875- and 640-nm light-emitting diodes (LEDs); manufactured by Multi Radiance Medical™, Solon - OH, USA), and cryotherapy by flexible rubber ice packs. PBMT alone was optimal for post-exercise recovery with improved MVC, decreased DOMS, and CK activity (p < 0.05) from 24 to 96 h compared to placebo, cryotherapy, and cryotherapy + PBMT. In the PBMT + cryotherapy group, the effect of PBMT was decreased (p > 0.05) but demonstrated significant improvement in MVC, decreased DOMS, and CK activity (p < 0.05). Cryotherapy as single treatment and cryotherapy + PBMT were similar to placebo (p > 0.05). We conclude that PBMT used as single treatment is the best modality for enhancement of post-exercise restitution, leading to complete recovery to baseline levels from 24 h after high-intensity eccentric contractions.
Keywords: Exercise recovery; Light-emitting diodes; Low-level laser therapy; Performance; Phototherapy.