Welcome to The Sports Docs Podcast with Dr. Ashley Bassett and Dr. Catherine Logan. On each episode we chat about the most recent developments in sports medicine and dissect through all the noise so you know which literature should actually impact your practice.
On today’s episode we’re focusing on blood flow restriction therapy or “BFR”. Blood flow restriction is one type of ischemic therapy that is thought to increase muscle mass, strength and performance at a lower level of resistance training. And that last part really is the key, because training at high loads is often not possible for our patients undergoing rehab for an injury or postoperatively.
BFR involves the use of a cuff or tourniquet system positioned at the upper part of the limb to restrict venous blood return while maintaining arterial inflow. While the exact mechanism of BFR remains unclear, restriction of venous outflow leads to an anaerobic – or oxygen depleted – environment similar to that of higher-intensity training. This anaerobic environment is hypothesized to promote muscle hypertrophy through a combination of cell signaling and hormonal changes.
BFR is not for every patient and there are relative contraindications to its use. These include conditions that may increase the risk of blood clotting, such as vascular disease, obesity, sickle cell trait or disease, cancer and a history of DVT.