A start-up from Liège has developed a tool to measure the muscle fatigue of the sporting elite. Its usefulness has been scientifically validated by a French laboratory, connected to the University of Saint-Etienne.
Last year, Myocene developed an easy-to-use device which objectively measures the muscle fatigue of high-level athletes. This device has now been scientifically recognized for its reliability and consistency by LiBM, the Interuniversity Laboratory of Motor Biology of the University of Saint-Etienne.
"This device works with electrostimulation,” Jean-Yves Mignolet, CEO of the start-up, told Le Soir. “We place electrodes at the level of the quadriceps of the athlete and these electrodes are connected to software that sends electrical impulses to the muscle to generate contractions within it. The force produced by these contractions is measured by a sensor placed at the level of the shin. In two minutes, the data is recorded and tells us the state of muscle fatigue of the athlete. This tool also makes it possible to optimise the recovery of an athlete.”
This breakthrough offers a new dimension to physical trainers who, on the field, rely mainly on questionnaires to try to identify the muscle fatigue of their athletes. Several elite clubs in football, handball or skiing are now users of Myocene’s device. Several universities are also showing interest in this technology, which is based on a known physiological principle.
"Muscle fatigue is manifested by a decrease in strength over time as part of intense and prolonged effort," Jean-Louis Croisier, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at ULiège and a specialist in injury prevention, told Le Soir. "Measuring it by looking at this force is something we are already doing in laboratories and sports medicine departments using sophisticated tools such as an isokinetic dynamometer. Some tools also allow us to collect basic measurements in the field.”
The Myocene device is therefore not revolutionary in principle, but its interest would lie in particular in its contribution on the ground. "In the general public's view, injury prevention comes down to a good warm-up. But in reality, the strategies we use are much more complex," said Jean-Louis Croisier. "We are trying to identify risk factors and therefore, for example, to establish whether muscle fatigue is a risk factor, or not, in an athlete, for a certain type of injury. If this risk factor is identified, we must be able to offer tools to high-level athletes to measure it.”
"But the labs are few and the tools are expensive," he added. “In this sense, the Myocene could be of interest on the field to accompany athletes and their staff when they are not in medical facilities.”
While this device does not fully replace the tests carried out in the laboratory, Myocene is certainly more accessible. "Will this device replace the scientific tools that explore muscle fatigue? The answer is no," insisted the ULiège professor. "The University of Saint-Etienne has established a link between measurements made in the field by Myocene and those obtained in the lab, and this is a good thing. But this does not mean that one can replace the other. There is a need on the ground, but some caution must be exercised. Just because you have a tool it doesn’t make you an expert. It is still necessary to be able to interpret the data collected. In short, this system should be seen more as complementary to the work carried out for years in authorised centres and laboratories.”