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Kyung Lee

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Is the use of EMS(electrical muscle stimulation) a form of doping?

This week in my bioelectricity class, we discussed electrical stimulation of the body. There are EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) devices that allow the user to stimulate and contract specific muscles by sending electrical impulses via electrode pads. EMS is sometimes used in competitive sports to increase exercise tolerance and manipulate the behavior of muscles favorably.

In 2011, a study revealed that EMS may enhance pitching performance and recovery in baseball. Without EMS, pitchers need to find a balance between resting and active exercise. With EMS, blood can continuously flow into the muscles, reducing the risk of exhaustion. There are other studies that show positive effects of EMS on athletic performance such as helping athletes stay warmed up without fatiguing the muscles, while the validity of these claims have not been confirmed. There are coaches that use EMS training on elite athletes who compete in the Olympics.

I’d like to pose a question, is the use of EMS in competitive sports a form of doping? While eating healthy or regular exercise can shape and improve an athlete’s performance, the use of EMS seems to be a more direct and invasive way of making the athlete’s body more fit for the sport. If the EMS technology advances enough to the extent where it can significantly improve athletic performance, do you think it is legitimate or fair to use EMS in competitive sports?

Topics: ems

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  • Mar 11 2013: Technically, taking a protein shake can be construed as doping. All of these things currently seen as "bad" will eventually find its way into the "good" realm.
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      Mar 12 2013: Although I do not believe electrical stimulation should be considered doping, I don't see it comparable to taking a protein shake. Consuming a protein shake is analagous to consuming a healthy high protein piece of food. Electrical stimulation on the other hand, offers many benefits without consuming any energy. An outside source, electricity, is utilized to enhance performance.
      • Mar 12 2013: By your logic, a protein shake still qualifies under and outside source. The same can be argued of creatine. Supplements may be considered less of an evil than some sources, but ultimately, they all still fall under the same category. Anything ingested outside of normal meals falls under "outside" sources. Some companies are known to use a form of steroid to improve the size of their chickens...thus a lot of the population ingests steroids which results in unrealized effects. So should we now dis-continue consumption of certain brands of chicken? Maybe so, but all of the madness behind PEDs and EMS is ridiculous, especially if the standard changes every year.

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