Thermal imaging: the innovations pushing back the boundaries in the sports world

Thermal imaging: the innovations pushing back the boundaries in the sports world

March 08, 2022 . 3min read

After carving a strong foothold in a wide range of markets, thermal imaging is now gaining traction in the sports world and the quest for superior performance. The infrared technology can be used for a number of applications in sports medicine, such as analyzing body temperature variations to improve recovery times and providing clearer insights into the effects of physical activity on the human body.

But thermal imaging can also assess or push the limits of machine performance, while ratcheting up safety for motor sports such as cycling, open-wheeled racing and superbike racing.

This article takes an in-depth look at how innovative infrared solutions are pushing back the boundaries in the sports world.


Analyzing thermoregulation to improve post-exercise recovery times

  • Thermoregulation as the pathway to boosting performance 

Medical supervision is the key to producing real results when athletes push their bodies through high-intensity workouts. Training sessions may send the temperature in certain parts of the body above the 37°C bar, especially the joints and muscles. Examining these temperature variations in greater detail can help improve recovery times and ramp up future performance.

The sports world can leverage the invaluable progress that thermal imaging has achieved in recent years to accurately analyze the body's thermoregulation mechanisms and use the findings to help athletes take their performance to the next level. Manufacturers have also used that intel to develop new ranges of hi-tech sportswear and footwear for improving thermoregulation and athletes' comfort in a broad array of disciplines.

  • Thermoregulation for avoiding injuries

The infrared technology allows sports professionals to examine local temperature variations with the aim of assessing how training sessions affect joints and muscles. They can also see the changes that take place during the recovery process.

A higher skin temperature in those parts of the body may be a tell-tale sign that the recovery process has not finished, meaning that therapists and trainers can tweak the athlete's workout until their skin temperature has returned to its baseline level.

Taking an in-depth look at the body's heat response and vasodilation mechanisms can provide med-tech teams with invaluable insights into the athlete's fitness level and their ability to undergo a high-intensity training regimen.

Using thermography on a regular basis during training sessions can help define the athlete's thermal profile. The areas that are the most exposed to the workload and susceptible to injury will come under heightened scrutiny to assess any fragilities and fine-tune workouts and recovery times accordingly.


Detecting physical injuries

Medically speaking, the ability to prevent injuries is a valuable solution for shielding athletes from harm or at least scaling down their severity. This prospect also has important economic benefits in light of the revenue that can be lost if a top-tier athlete is sidelined with an injury. Professional football is a prime example which explains why infrared technology has become a major ally for the preventive sports medicine sector.

  • Monitoring temperature variations to determine an athlete's level of fatigue. This technique uses thermal imaging to prevent injuries from occurring.
  • Monitoring skin temperature to identify variations in blood flow could help pinpoint internal injuries. Infrared technology has the ability to detect inflammation caused by muscle injuries and/or internal bleeding. According to recent studies, the body's symmetrical limbs have the same skin temperature under normal conditions (no injuries). A difference in temperature may be a warning sign that an athlete has sustained a potential physiological trauma or bodily injury, such as a strained muscle.  

To find out more about infrared technology and its countless applications, go ahead and download our free guide below.




Open-wheeled racing: thermal cameras for checking tire temperatures

  • Monitoring tire and brake temperatures: When it comes to motorsports, especially open-wheeled racing, component temperatures, overheating and excessive cooling are major challenges that can affect performance, durability and also safety. Drivers need to keep tire and brake temperatures within the ideal operating range. Thermal imaging can help them keep a watchful eye on the temperature and warn them before parts start overheating. Fans can be treated to an even more immersive experience during the race if they can see a car's tire wear and temperatures, while enjoying a real-time glimpse at the strategies that drivers use to deal with such issues.
  • Improving mechanical performance: technical crews can also use thermal imaging to view the vehicle's air and exhaust flow path lines. The results can play an instrumental role in improving aerodynamic efficiency and generating downforce.

Finally, the technology also has applications for analyzing the car's power output in real time to prevent failures in the engine or electrical system.


Cycling: zeroing in on mechanical doping

Infrared technology is starting to establish something of a track record in detecting and preventing incidents of mechanical doping, especially in cycling.

  • Spotting miniature electric motors concealed inside the bicycle frame: thermal imaging can make everyday work easier for anti-doping teams and create a more level playing field among athletes taking part in the same competition.


Thermal imaging is harnessing the recent breakthroughs in technology to support the changes sweeping through the sports world. Preventive sports medicine and the challenge of improving recovery times are mission-critical in a fast-moving industry that generates tremendous revenue streams. As such, it is vitally important to keep athletes from harm and safeguard their performance by looking after their well-being and health. Infrared technology is one of the solutions.

As for motor sports, thermal cameras have cemented their reputation as a key ally in the quest to push back the limits of performance.

To find out more about infrared technology and its countless applications, go ahead and download our free guide below.

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