Effects of Low-Level Laser Therapy on Muscular Performance and Soreness Recovery in Athletes: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Sports Health. 2022 Sep-Oct;14(5):687-693. doi: 10.1177/19417381211039766. Epub 2021 Aug 25.


Context: Athletes must maintain their peak state of strength. Previous studies have investigated the effect of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) on muscular performance. A previous systematic review and meta-analysis has investigated this issue in healthy participants but not in physically active athletes.

Objective: To investigate whether LLLT can improve muscular performance and soreness recovery in athletes.

Data sources: PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library.

Study selection: Published randomized controlled trials and crossover studies till December 2020.

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Level of evidence: Level 3.

Data extraction: Assessment of study quality was rated using the risk of bias assessment method for randomized trials (Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions).

Results: A total of 24 studies were included. LLLT application before exercise significantly improved lower-limb muscle strength in 24-hour, 48-hour, 96-hour, and 8-week follow-up groups. Furthermore, decreased soreness index, serum creatine kinase concentrations, interleukin-6, and thiobarbituric acid reactive substance concentrations and a trend toward the improvement of contract repetition number and VO2 kinetic outcomes were observed.

Conclusion: Although a definite therapeutic effect of LLLT is yet to be established, the current evidence supports that LLLT use improves muscular performance in physically active athletes. Additional trials with large sample sizes and robust design should be conducted before strong recommendations are made.

Keywords: athlete; low-level laser therapy; meta-analysis; muscular performance.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy* / methods
  • Pain
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic