Jan 29, 2015
Into the Future

In many minds, the idea of laser therapy might draw up images of lightsabers and spaceships. But as Douglas Johnson, ATC, EES, CLS, Co-Owner of Sports and Industrial Rehab, and Timothy Demchak, PhD, ATC, Associate Professor of Applied Medicine and Rehabilitation at Indiana State University, presented on Thursday morning, it’s an emerging science in the field of sports medicine.

Their session, entitled, “Low-Level Laser Therapy: Translating Evidence-Based Science into Clinical Practice,” specifically explored the role of therapeutic laser applications in athletic training. Laser therapy works because a chain of reactions occurs in tissues when exposed to the laser. Photonic energy is absorbed by the body’s mitochondria, which then fuels a physiological response, resulting in restoration of normal cell structure and function.

Both Johnson and Demchak have used laser therapy in an athletic training setting to treat a variety of issues, such as muscle sprains, contusions, joint sprains, tendonitis, swelling, bursitis, arthritis, fractures, and neuropathies. In their experience, lower doses of laser therapy are effective for tissue repair, while higher doses can provide pain relief. Too high though, and the dose can be destructive.

Laser therapy is currently making inroads into athletic training, but some roadblocks still remain. One barrier is education. Athletic trainers cannot yield this technology unless they understand how to use it appropriately. Another obstacle is the cost of the equipment, which many school districts or universities may not be able to afford. Still, Johnson and Demchak are optimistic about the potential this futuristic modality could bring to athletic training in the years to come.

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