What are the Effects of Low-intensity Blood Flow Restricted Exercise compared with Conventional Resistance Training in Military Rehabilitation?

Research Paper Title

The effects of low-intensity blood flow restricted exercise compared with conventional resistance training on the clinical outcomes of active UK military personnel following a 3-week in-patient rehabilitation programme: protocol for a randomized controlled feasibility study.

Background

A challenge for rehabilitation practitioners lies in designing optimal exercise programmes that facilitate musculoskeletal (MSK) adaptations whilst simultaneously accommodating biological healing and the safe loading of an injured limb. A growing body of evidence supports the use of resistance training at a reduced load in combination with blood flow restriction (BFR) to enhance hypertrophic and strength responses in skeletal muscle. In-patient rehabilitation has a long tradition in the UK Military, however, the efficacy of low intensity (LI) BFR training has not been tested in this rehabilitation setting. The aims of this study are to determine (1) the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) investigating LI-BFR training in a residential, multidisciplinary treatment programme and (2) provide preliminary data describing the within and between-group treatment effects of a LI-BFR intervention and a conventional resistance training group in military personnel.

Methods

This is a single-blind randomised controlled feasibility study. A minimum of 28 lower-limb injured UK military personnel, aged 18 to 50 years, attending rehabilitation at the UK Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) will be recruited into the study. After completion of baseline measurements, participants will be randomised in a 1:1 ratio to receive 3 weeks (15 days) of intensive multidisciplinary team (MDT) in-patient rehabilitation.

  • Group 1 will receive conventional resistance training 3 days per week.
  • Group 2 will perform twice daily LI-BFR training.

Both groups will also undertake the same common elements of the existing MDT programme. Repeat follow-up assessments will be undertaken upon completion of treatment. Group 2 participants will be asked to rate their pain response to LI-BFR training every five sessions.

Discussion

The results will provide information on the feasibility of a full-scale RCT. Recommendations for an adequately powered study to determine the efficacy of LI-BFR training during in-patient rehabilitation can then be made. The study may also provide insights into the potential effectiveness of LI-BFR training as a novel exercise modality to induce muscle adaptations in the absence of high mechanical loading of the lower-limb.

Reference

Ladlow, P., Coppack, R.J., Dharm-Datta, S., Conway, D., Sellon, E., Patterson, S.D. & Bennett, A.N. (2017) The effects of low-intensity blood flow restricted exercise compared with conventional resistance training on the clinical outcomes of active UK military personnel following a 3-week in-patient rehabilitation programme: protocol for a randomized controlled feasibility study. Pilot and Feasibility Studies. 3:71. doi: 10.1186/s40814-017-0216-x. eCollection 2017.

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