Luke Hughes is Ph.D. student and honorary researcher at the ISEH. His research project  'Strength training with blood flow restriction to the lower limb in immobilised patients following ACL reconstruction and ankle fracture' was recently published in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study focussed upon the use of blood flow restriction training in clinical musculoskeletal [MSK] rehabilitation and represents a collaboration between the ISEH, St Mary’s University and the Football Association with the ISEH's Dr Bruce Paton, Dr Ben Rosenblatt (FA) and Dr Stephen Patterson (St Mary’s).

Luke said: "Following immobilisation as a result of ligament and fracture injuries, there is significant loss of size and strength in the muscles surrounding the joint, often most prominent in the knee extensor muscles.

Loss of muscular size and strength can negatively impact and individuals’ physical function, and can prolong the rehabilitation process. During rehabilitation, one of the main aims is to regain the muscle strength that has been lost. To increase muscle strength, it has long been understood that heavy exercise loads must be used, in excess of 70% of the individuals’ one repetition maximum [1RM]. This is difficult and often not feasible in injured patients; in recent years, research has shown that blood flow restriction [BFR] during exercise can produce significant muscle hypertrophy and strength adaptations.

The recent meta-analysis from our group demonstrated that low-load BFR training is more effective at improving muscle strength compared to low-load training alone, and likely also muscle hypertrophy, and is an effective, tolerable and safe rehabilitation tool.

The project focussed upon the use of BFR training in immobilised patients at UCLH (Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and ankle fracture patients) and we have been grateful to Prof Fares Haddad who has opened the post surgical cohort of patients to allow this study to proceed.

We are adding BFR in to the current low-load rehabilitation protocol that is used and examining muscle strength, size, physical function and muscle morphological adaptations to BFR training in these patient groups. We have a new 3D ultrasound kit which allows us to measure the change in muscle volume in response to normal and BFR rehabilitation. This is the first study of its kind to take place on the NHS and will allow us to test the potential of this training method for use in rehabilitation".

Read the review published in the BJSM:

Blood flow restriction training in clinical musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis