Photobiomodulation, or Class 4 laser therapy, is getting athletes back on the field faster — ‘the sooner we get the laser on the area, the faster they get out of pain and the injury heals.’
Joe Petrone is one of the most respected athletic trainers in the country. He has worked with college and professional athletes for 30 years, has been at Auburn University since 2008, and currently serves as the assistant athletic director for sports medicine.
In his service to some of the top athletes in the country, Mr. Petrone has witnessed all types of injuries, from acute trauma to repetitive use, from head to toe and superficial to deep. He’s also been educated and exposed to all forms of treatment for sports injuries, including modalities, bracing and taping techniques, rehabilitative exercise and more.
PBM and sports injuries
When Petrone uses superlatives to describe the modality of photobiomodulation (PBM, or laser therapy) for the treatment of sports injuries, we all should pay attention.
“It works really well on soft tissue injuries,” he says. “We see a lot of those in the training department. Whether it is contusions, sprains, strains, or other soft tissue injuries, we have found that the sooner we get the laser on the area, the faster they get out of pain and the injury heals.”
Photobiomodulation is defined as “A form of light therapy that utilizes non-ionizing forms of light sources…in the visible and infrared spectrum. It is a non-thermal process involving endogenous chromophores eliciting photophysical (i.e. linear and non-linear) and photochemical events at various biological scales. This process results in beneficial therapeutic outcomes including but not limited to the alleviation of pain or inflammation, immunomodulation, and promotion of wound healing and tissue regeneration.”
PBM treatments are proven to improve collagen fiber reorganization in damaged calcaneal tendons, and should be applied as soon as possible after any injury.
“This is what tells me the laser is really working,” Petrone says. “When an athlete re-injures an area, and the first thing they do is ask for the laser, it tells me that they know it works, that they can trust it to help them heal again.”
For inflammation, injuries and pain
The primary effects of PBM occur when chromophores absorb photons of red and infrared laser light. Class 4 therapeutic lasers are FDA-cleared prescription medical devices that can deliver laser light to the large volume of tissue required for treatment of sports injuries, especially in larger athletes.
“I am amazed at how well the laser works on plantar fasciitis,” Petrone says. “We will use the laser together with bracing, taping and strengthening to help with inflammation and pain.”
Proper treatment for plantar fasciitis would be a surface dosage of 4-8 joules per centimeter squared, for a total dose of 2,400-4,800 joules.
“College athletes have a finite playing career; they only have so many practices, so many chances to compete,” Petrone concludes. “I can list numerous cases where the laser has helped the injured athlete with reducing pain and inflammation, and actually helping the injured tissues heal. Laser treatments mean a lot to our athletes. They genuinely appreciate that we have the best laser in our training department.”
Phil Harrington, DC, CMLSO, FASLMS, is clinical manager, human medical director and laser safety officer at Summus Medical Laser. To learn more, go to summuslaser.com/why-summus.