Is It Ethical for Athletes to Use Red Light Therapy?

Is It Ethical for Athletes to Use Red Light Therapy?

Does using red light therapy give athletes an unfair advantage? Red light therapy is a hot new trend for athletes across the world, with many professional athletes using the benefits of this therapy to improve their performance. As the benefits of red light therapy become recognized by medical scientists, some have started to question if using red light therapy should be regulated in professional sports.

Red Light Therapy in Sports

            Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy, is a type of therapy that uses specific wavelengths of red and infrared light to stimulate cells. These wavelengths are absorbed by mitochondria, tiny organs in the cells, and are believed to promote healing, reduced inflammation, and pain relief.

            These benefits have caused red light therapy to gain popularity among athletes in recent years. Red light therapy is embraced by professional and amateur athletes alike due to its potential benefits for recovery, injury prevention, and performance enhancement.

            While many support athletes using red light therapy because of its non-invasive and drug-free approach, others argue that it raises ethical concerns, such as unfair advantages and accessibility issues. It is important to consider these ethical considerations. While red light therapy is not currently regulated in most professional sports, the ethical considerations of the advantages it provides are being debated.


Understanding Red Light Therapy

            Red light therapy involves exposing body tissues to specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light, which penetrate the skin and are absorbed by cells. This is thought to stimulate the production of energy in the cells, improving their overall function.

            Red light penetrates deeply, reaching the muscles. There are several potential benefits that it can offer athletes.

  • Faster recovery - Red light therapy has been shown to speed up muscle recovery and reduce the severity of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after intense exercise.
  • Reduced inflammation - By stimulating the body's natural anti-inflammatory response, red light therapy can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing in injured tissues.
  • Pain management - Red light therapy can provide pain relief by reducing inflammation and promoting the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals.
  • Enhanced performance - Some studies have suggested that red light therapy may improve athletic performance by increasing muscular endurance and reducing fatigue.

            One of the key reasons that red light therapy is so popular in athletics is that it is considered very safe compared to other methods of improving physical performance. It is non-invasive with almost no meaningful side effects. While long-term safety and the potential for unintended consequences have not been extensively studied, the way that red light therapy works makes it very unlikely to carry any meaningful medical risks.

Ethical Considerations

            Because red light therapy has the potential to create an athletic advantage, there are several important ethical considerations that are under discussion. While the use of red light therapy in professional sports is unlikely to face imminent changes in how it is regulated,  these ethical considerations may influence how it can be used in professional sports in the future.

Fair Competition

            Although the research on red light therapy and athletic performance is still developing, the potential for performance enhancement raises questions about fairness and the integrity of sports competitions. Especially because it is a newer method of therapy, not all athletes in a particular competition are likely to be using red light therapy. This could convey an unfair advantage for those who are using red light therapy.

            One potential ethical concern surrounding red light therapy has accessibility. In the early days of red light therapy, high-quality devices were relatively expensive, potentially giving athletes with more financial resources an unfair advantage. As red light therapy devices have become affordable for anyone, however, this concern has significantly diminished.

Doping and Sports Regulations

            Unlike performance-enhancing drugs, red light therapy is not classified as doping and is not currently banned by major sports governing bodies. As a newer therapy, red light therapy may become the subject of debate; however, it is not currently facing any potential of being banned.

            The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the main sports governing body that determines what types of therapeutic methods are and are not permissible for use in sports. The WADA has not yet issued any kind of guidance on whether they view red light therapy as something that should be permitted or not in professional sports.

            There are three key criteria that WADA uses in determining whether a therapeutic method should be banned or not. Two of these three criteria must be met before WADA will ban a particular therapy:

  1. Does it have the potential to enhance sports performance?
  2. Does it have the potential to be harmful to the athlete?
  3. Does it violate the spirit of the sport?

Additionally, WADA may ban therapies that mask the use of other banned drugs or treatments.

            It seems unlikely that red light therapy will ever be considered generally harmful to use. Red light therapy is also not known to mask any prohibited performance enhancers. If, however, WADA determines that red light both has the potential to enhance sports performance and violate the spirit of a sport, it is possible that it could be prohibited in professional sports one day. It seems unlikely that red light will be considered to violate the spirit of most professional sports, but it is ultimately up to WADA to determine. As research continues, regulations may continue to evolve.

Arguments Supporting Red Light Therapy in Sports

            There are several arguments that are used to support the use of red light therapy by amateur and professional athletes:

  • Legal and non-invasive treatment - Red light therapy is a legal, non-invasive treatment that does not carry the same risks or safety concerns associated with performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Avoidance of artificial methods - An option for pain relief and recovery that augments the body’s natural processes instead of changing them offers several benefits for athletes. Red light therapy may help athletes avoid the potential health risks associated with artificial
  • Leveling the playing field for athletes - One of the key benefits red lights therapy may offer athletes is reduced risk of injury and improved recovery. This could help athletes to avoid injuries that will affect their careers and improve equality among athletes.
  • Encouraging innovation in sports medicine - Embracing red light therapy may encourage further research and innovation in sports medicine, ultimately benefiting athletes and the broader sports community.

            Because red light therapy is widely available to most athletes and offers natural benefits that have the potential to improve performance and health, many argue that it should be broadly permitted. Additionally, people also point to the fact that red light therapy has the potential to improve performance by improving health instead of creating a health risk as support for using red light therapy in sports.

Arguments Against Red Light Therapy in Sports

            There are not many arguments against the use of red light therapy in sports. The only argument that has been discussed is if the advantage that it provides should be considered unfair. Red light therapy has the potential to improve muscle performance and increase the time for the onset of fatigue, potentially providing an advantage for those that use it.

            Supporting this argument is the fact that red light therapy is relatively new. Not all athletes may have access to red light therapy or even be aware that it exists as a potential performance enhancer. As red light therapy has grown in availability and popularity, however, this argument has become less meaningful than it once was.

Current State of Red Light Therapy in Sports Ethics

            While there is some ongoing debate about the ethics of using red light therapy to improve athletic performance, it is widely considered to be ethical. Red light therapy is widely available, and its benefits are becoming increasingly recognized. Additionally, red light therapy may improve sports equality by reducing the risk of injuries and promoting health in sports.

            The only arguments against red light therapy for sports center around the concern of an unfair advantage. Because it is widely available and its potential benefits are well-known, however, it appears unlikely that this argument will result in future regulation.

            As things currently stand, athletes are generally permitted to use red light therapy to improve their performance. Not only is this permissible, but it is actually a good idea to reduce the risk of injury and improve your recovery and performance as an athlete.

            As research on red light therapy advances, there is a need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration between researchers, sports organizations, and athletes. This collaboration will help ensure that red light therapy is used ethically and responsibly while also informing the development of future regulations and guidelines.

Mito Red Light

            At Mito Red Light, we are committed to improving the accessibility of high-quality red light therapy products for all athletes. Our products can help you achieve reliable doses of professional-grade red light therapy, optimizing the effect that red light and near-infrared light have on your athletic performance and well-being.

            We provide a variety of red light therapy products that are specifically designed to provide the wavelengths of light used to improve muscle performance. We welcome you to review our selection of high-quality products or to contact one of our expert representatives at 1-866-861-6846.

DISCLAIMER: Mito Red Light devices are not clinically proven to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical conditions. Mito Red Light devices are Class II general wellness devices aimed at affecting the body through topical heating and supporting cellular function. The scientific studies referenced in this article are for informational purposes only. To see a list of precautionary warnings and contraindications, click here.