Near Infrared Spectroscopy for Muscle Specific Analysis of Intensity and Fatigue during Cross-Country Skiing Competition-A Case Report

Sensors (Basel). 2021 Apr 4;21(7):2535. doi: 10.3390/s21072535.


The aims of the study were to assess the robustness and non-reactiveness of wearable near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) technology to monitor exercise intensity during a real race scenario, and to compare oxygenation between muscle groups important for cross-country skiing (XCS). In a single-case study, one former elite XCS (age: 39 years, peak oxygen uptake: 65.6 mL/kg/min) was equipped with four NIRS devices, a high-precision global navigation satellite system (GNSS), and a heart rate (HR) monitor during the Vasaloppet long-distance XCS race. All data were normalized to peak values measured during incremental laboratory roller skiing tests two weeks before the race. HR reflected changes in terrain and intensity, but showed a constant decrease of 0.098 beats per minute from start to finish. Triceps brachii (TRI) muscle oxygen saturation (SmO2) showed an interchangeable pattern with HR and seems to be less affected by drift across the competition (0.027% drop per minute). Additionally, TRI and vastus lateralis (VL) SmO2 revealed specific loading and unloading pattern of XCS in uphill and downhill sections, while rectus abdominus (RA) SmO2 (0.111% drop per minute) reflected fatigue patterns occurring during the race. In conclusion, the present preliminary study shows that NIRS provides a robust and non-reactive method to monitor exercise intensity and fatigue mechanisms when applied in an outdoor real race scenario. As local exercise intensity differed between muscle groups and central exercise intensity (i.e., HR) during whole-body endurance exercise such as XCS, NIRS data measured at various major muscle groups may be used for a more detailed analysis of kinetics of muscle activation and compare involvement of upper body and leg muscles. As TRI SmO2 seemed to be unaffected by central fatigue mechanisms, it may provide an alternative method to HR and GNSS data to monitor exercise intensity.

Keywords: GNSS; GPS; NIRS; Vasaloppet; double poling; heart rate; muscle oxygenation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fatigue
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Skiing*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared