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Healing Sports Injuries with Red Light Therapy

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Posted on March 22, 2020

Elite pro athletes, trainers, and sports medicine professionals are using Red Light therapy to rehab and recover from sports injuries faster, with less pain and inflammation.

Red light therapy is used by pro athletes across the sports world to train, enhance performance, and speed up the muscle recovery process. Red light therapy is also a go-to treatment for rehabbing sports injuries, with a large base of peer-reviewed clinical research behind it, and lots of elite athletes who have gotten back on the field faster.

Keep reading to see how light therapy can help you potentially prevent and treat a wide variety of sports injuries.

Pro Athletes and Sports Medicine Experts Use Red/NIR Light for Injury Rehab

Red light therapy devices can be found across the pro sports world. NFL stars like Patrick Peterson, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Tyrann Mathieu are using Red/NIR Light Therapy to stay healthy. Chargers star WR Keenan Allen missed the 2016 season with a knee injury before working Red Light into his training in the last few years. Since then, Keenan has exploded into one of the best pass catchers in football in 2017 and 2018, and hasn’t looked back.

Detroit Lions linebacker Devon Kennard puts the hurt on opposing QBs, but he had to overcome a lot of injuries early in his career to get where he is today. He used Red Light to get back on the field:

“I use my (Red Light system) every day. It’s had a tremendous impact on my recovery time! I’ve never felt so fresh in my entire career. I take cold baths on a regular basis and love relaxing with my (Red Light) immediately after.”

Dutch gymnast Sanne Wevers is the reigning gold medalist on the balance beam, besting Simone Biles in Rio in 2016. She uses Red Light every day to overcome injuries and strain:

“Nothing has been as effective for back pain as using my (Red light device). When I shine red light on my back for 10-15 minutes a day, I can clearly tell that my post-training recovery is faster and the pain is less noticeable… I’ve seen the same results for knee pain, ankle strains, and sore wrists.”*

3-time Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith uses Red Light to stay healthy in the hard-hitting NHL in his mid-thirties. Duncan even gave Red Light treatment a shout-out in the New York Times.

Amelia Boone is one of the most decorated obstacle racers of all-time. She tried red light therapy for rehab after spraining ligaments in her forefoot. Amelia says it made a huge difference and is absolutely clutch for recovery and rehab.

UFC champion fighter Anthony Pettis proclaims: “When I use my (Red Light Device) after demanding workouts, I wake up the next day with way less soreness, pain, and inflammation.”

Sports Medicine Pros and Trainers Trust Red/NIR Light Therapy for Injury Recovery

The best minds in sports medicine, including the National Academy of Sports Medicine, use Red/NIR Light Therapy to help their athletes recover from injuries. You can also check out some of the world-class trainers using Red Light Therapy, like Ben Greenfield and Lacey Stone.

The world’s best golfers have to overcome joint pain, inflammation, and nagging injuries to play their best. That’s why the PGA’s top trainers use Red Light Therapy.

Dr. Ara Suppiah works with major champions like Phil Mickleson and Bubba Watson, and he’s a big believer in red light therapy for injury recovery:

“I suggest my players use larger (Red/NIR Light) systems every day for full body therapy in the morning and in the evening, for 10-15 minutes at a time. If they are carrying an injury that I have assessed and diagnosed, I sometimes add the (more targeted) NIR for ‘spot treatment’ 3-4 times a day.”

Dr. Troy Van Biezen is another leading PGA trainer, with clients like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Zach Johnson. He uses Red/NIR Light himself, and recommends it to his pro golfers for pain and strain. Golfers have taken note, with most of the best players in the world using Red Light to stay healthy and fresh. Take it from Dr. Troy, who spoke about what all the golfers were doing at the Masters:

“There was so much red light going on [in the Augusta National training facility], we called it the red room.”

Research Shows Light Therapy Speeds Healing of Sports Injuries

Athletes of All Ages Return From Injury Faster with Red Light Therapy

A major study of college athletes in 2016 showed that red light therapy treatments helped players get back on the field significantly faster than those who didn’t use red light. Researchers treated a wide range of common sports injuries with near infrared light and found:

Athletes Return to Play Faster with Red Light: Athletes improved their return to play time almost 10 whole days using light therapy, versus placebo.

Players Liked Natural Light Treatments: 79% of student athletes reported being satisfied or very satisfied with the results of light therapy for their injury rehab, versus only 7% who were unsatisfied.

Light Therapy was More Effective than Ice: Researchers concluded: “We believe [red light therapy] will be even more effective than ice because it is working from the inside of the injury outwards, with the deep penetration capability of the 830 nm wavelength ensuring photoactivation and repair of the compromised cells in the injured tissues.” [1]

Recovering from Achilles and Ankle Injuries with Light Therapy

Hurting your Achilles tendon is one of the most debilitating sports injuries. One recent systematic review looked at three studies related to red light therapy and the treatment of tendinopathy. Researchers concluded that “the use of red light therapy compared to placebo, is effective in the treatment of tendinopathy” [2]

A separate study combined red light therapy with eccentric exercises, the most commonly prescribed recovery for Achilles injuries. 52 athletes were split into a light therapy group and a placebo group. Researchers found that athletes using light therapy saw positive results 3 times faster than athletes who received placebo treatment. They concluded that “red light therapy demonstrates consistent results in the treatment of tendinopathy.” [3]

Light Therapy for Ankle Relief: A 2019 study found that light therapy is also effective in the immediate treatment of sprained ankles [4]. In a separate 2018 study, light therapy was found to actively reduce edema in the initial phase of ankle sprains as well. [5]

Rehabbing Knee Injuries and Meniscal Tears with Light Therapy

A 2013 study found that people with meniscal tears who were treated with light therapy saw significantly reduced pain and increased functionality. Researchers concluded that near infrared light treatment should be considered in patients with meniscal tears who do not wish to undergo surgery. [6]

A study from 2014 found that combined red and near infrared light therapy was effective in reducing knee pain, while improving the quality of life in patients with knee injuries. [7] A primary reason red light therapy is so effective for healing joint, bone, and soft tissue injuries is the major collagen boost you get from natural light treatments.

Patellar Tendonitis, also called “jumper’s knee,” is caused by excess inflammation in your patellar tendon, and can lead to tears if it’s not treated. [8] A 2013 study showed that 75% of jumper’s knee patients found success with red light therapy treatments, among both men and women. Researchers concluded that “red light therapy is an effective treatment for sports injuries, particularly jumper's knee.” [9]

Relief from Tennis Elbow with Red and Near Infrared Light

Lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow, is a painful tendon condition caused by repetitive wrist and arm motion. It plagues tennis players, but is also common among painters, carpenters, and plumbers. [10] This often leads to invasive surgery, but light therapy can make a big difference for tennis elbow.

In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical trial from 2013, patients received either light therapy or a sham treatment. Those who received light therapy saw significantly improved hand grip strength, and improved elbow and arm function. Researchers also documented a major decrease in pain. [11]

Several other clinical studies have also shown light therapy’s pain relief benefits for people with tennis elbow. [12,13,14]

Light Therapy Helps You Heal and Rehab Sports Injuries Faster, with Less Pain

From elite pro athletes to world-class trainers and sports medicine professionals, the best in athletics are using light therapy to treat injuries, improve rehab, reduce pain and inflammation, and recover function. Cutting edge clinical research supports red light therapy as a potential treatment for recovery as well.

Disclaimers and considerations: The information on this page is meant to educate readers about the science, research, and health benefits of red light therapy. Consult a trusted health professional for the diagnosis and treatment of specific medical conditions.

These Red/NIR light therapy products are registered with the FDA as a Class II medical devices for the treatment of pain, strain, and inflammation. Other health benefits mentioned in this article are for educational purposes only and not intended to support the safety or effectiveness of these devices, and not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent a disease. The information presented is based on peer-reviewed clinical research, including information about emerging studies and scientific inquiries.

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