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Ellie Maybury writes for Sportsmith on Enhancing Performance with BFR Wearables

In a recent article on Sportsmith, Ellie Maybury of Soccer Herformance, previously Head of Performance of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, discusses how recovery can be enhanced through the use of wearable Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) garments, specifically Hytro BFR wearables. The article covers the importance of recovery within pro sport, the challenges faced by coaches and athletes, how BFR can offer a solution, and how best to integrate and utilise BFR wearables to optimize recovery programming.

Bristol City Women's Footballer recovering wearing Hytro BFR Performance Shorts

Opening with recognition of the commitment performance practitioners make to researching, educating, and promoting recovery among athletes sets the scene for why this article is of great importance to this community. Performance professionals understand that recovery strategies are vital to manage the demands of training and competition effectively, and that rest, sleep, and nutrition are fundamental to recovery. Ellie identifies that whilst these pillars of recovery are well understood, the lack of clarity around strategies within the fatigue-recovery space can leave athletes and coaches with unanswered questions. 


Sharing her personal philosophy and understanding of recovery, Ellie highlights the need to return athletes to training or competition sooner than when they may naturally return to baseline through the planning of periodised recovery processes based on subjective feedback of muscle damage and fatigue. 


To address both a lack of clarity and the need for modalities that enable athletes to return to play at a better performance level, the article delves into the following summarised points about Performance BFR in detail. 


Lakopi Samoa Rugby Players taking an ice bath whilst wearing Hytro BFR Performance Shorts


Blood Flow Restriction for Recovery 

BFR, involving compressive cuffs on the limbs to restrict and then release blood flow, has shown promise in accelerating recovery and promoting physiological adaptation post-training or competition. Research has demonstrated that BFR reduces muscle damage biomarkers and muscle soreness, shortens recovery time, and improves performance metrics like countermovement jump and sprint performance. 


The physiological benefits of BFR include: 

  • Recovery Hormones: BFR induces muscle swelling, which stimulates the production of recovery hormones. Upon cuff release, these hormones circulate systemically, enhancing recovery. 
  • Flushing: The release of cuff pressure causes a rapid flush that removes metabolic by-products and inflammation factors from muscles and joints, accelerating recovery. 
  • Reperfusion: Fresh, nutrient-rich blood rushes into the muscles and tissues upon cuff release, aiding recovery. 


Sophia Fleursch recovering whilst wearing Hytro BFR Performance Shorts


Think about this: How often do you notice your athletes struggling with lingering muscle soreness or stiffness after a tough game or training session? Imagine being able to speed up their recovery process, allowing them to bounce back faster and train harder. This is where BFR can be a game-changer. 


BFR Tools and Technologies 

BFR technology includes pneumatic, pressurized cuffs and non-pneumatic, practical cuffs. Pneumatic cuffs offer precise control over pressure, making them suitable for clinical, rehab, and research settings, but require a large investment and are complex to use. Non-pneumatic cuffs, such as Hytro’s Strap-In™ BFR Technology, are cost-effective and practical for regular use in sports facilities. Practical BFR has gained support for its effectiveness in athletic populations following research evidencing its efficacy. 


Recovery BFR Periodisation example

Introducing Practical BFR 

Effective introduction of BFR involves educating athletes on its mechanisms, sensations, safety considerations, and correct usage. Gradually increasing frequency and pressure over sessions helps athletes become familiar with the sensation working towards a perceived pressure of 7 out of 10 on a subjective scale, which corresponds to moderate pressure without pain. 


Have you ever thought about how introducing a new recovery method might impact your team? By gradually incorporating BFR, you can help athletes get used to the feeling and benefits, leading to smoother adaptation and better overall recovery outcomes. 


Recovery BFR can be passive (resting with BFR) or active (low-intensity exercise with BFR). The hormonal benefits of BFR are systemic, while flushing is more localized to the restricted muscles. Recovery BFR is ideally performed immediately after training or competition, with a 24-hour window for effectiveness. Research suggests three intervals of active and passive BFR optimize recovery, though 1-2 intervals also provide benefits. 


Can you see how fitting BFR sessions into your current recovery protocols could give your athletes an edge? Whether it’s a post-game cooldown or part of a regular recovery routine, BFR offers versatile and impactful benefits. 


Slough FC footballer recovering whilst wearing Hytro BFR Performance Shorts


Future Research Directions 

There is a notable lack of research on BFR protocols for female athletes due to hormonal fluctuations and contraceptive use. Addressing this gap is crucial for developing appropriate BFR protocols for both males and females, ensuring effective recovery strategies across all athletes. 


Imagine the potential breakthroughs when we have tailored BFR protocols for female athletes. By contributing to this growing field, you could be at the forefront of revolutionising recovery strategies in women’s sports. 


Dr. Warren Bradley, Founder and Head of Elite Performance at Hytro, reacted to the piece: “Educating the professional sports industry about BFR and its extensive benefits has always been a priority for Hytro. Therefore, seeing another highly informative BFR piece published on Sportsmith is fantastic. Ellie shares her knowledge and understanding in a detailed yet accessible manner, ensuring that performance practitioners can greatly benefit from reading it. Our ongoing commitment to research stems from our dedication to advancing evidence-based understanding of Performance BFR across various sports and all genders. We are excited to continue narrowing the existing research gap.” 


Consider the opportunities BFR wearables present for your team. From faster recovery to improved performance metrics, the practical applications of these scientific insights are vast. Encourage your athletes to embrace these innovations and witness the transformation in their recovery and performance. The full article is available to read here, published alongside other insightful BFR articles such as Using blood flow restriction training for athlete recovery and return to play and How the US Men’s National Team utilise blood flow restriction training. 


Book a demo now to understand how Recovery BFR can elevate your team’s recovery.

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