Blood Flow Restriction: Is it effective?

Catherine Logan

August 20th, 2019

Proximal, Distal and Contralateral Effects of Blood Flow Restriction Training on the Lower Extremities: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Source: Sports health, first published January 14, 2019

Clinical Question:Is low-load lower extremity BFR training safe and effective for strengthening muscle groups proximal, distal and contralateral to the tourniquet?

Bottom Line: Low-load BFR led to greater increases in muscle strength and limb circumference. BFR training had similar strengthening effects on both proximal and distal muscle groups. Gains in the contralateral extremity may corroborate a systemic or crossover effect.

Points to consider: The protocol was completed by 26 patients (16 BFR, 10 control) with mean age 27 years old. A statistically greater increase in strength was seen proximal and distal to the BFR tourniquet compared to the non-tourniquet extremity and the control group (P < 0.05).

Approximately twice the improvement was seen in the BFR group compared with controls. Limb circumference significantly increased in both the thigh (0.8% vs. 3.5%) and the leg (0.4% vs. 2.8%) compared to the controls (P < 0.01).

Takeaway: BFR strengthens muscle groups proximal + distal to the cuff…and strengthens the contralateral limb.

About the Author:
Catherine A. Logan, MD, MBA, MSPT is a sports medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon and writer. Based in Denver, CO, she is an attending at Colorado Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics at Rose Medical Center. Dr. Logan is the Head League Physician for Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) member of the team physician pool for the US Ski & Snowboard teams each year. Dr. Logan completed her Orthopaedic Surgery residency at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Residency Program and her Sports Medicine Fellowship training at the prestigious Steadman Philippon Research Institute/The Steadman Clinic in Vail, CO. Logan is also on the board of The Chill Foundation.