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Nicole D. Park, Robert D. Maresca, Kimberly I. McKibans, D. Reid Morgan, Timothy S. Allen and Gordon L. Warren

The study’s objective was to determine whether orally ingested caffeine could help overcome excitation-contraction-coupling failure, which has been suggested to explain part of the strength loss associated with eccentric-contraction-induced muscle injury. A sample of 13 college students (4 men and 9 women) was used in a double-blind, repeated-measures experimental design. Each participant performed 2 experimental trials, 1 with each leg, with each trial lasting 4 consecutive days. On a given day, each participant was randomly assigned to ingest a capsule containing 6 mg/kg of either caffeine or flour (placebo). On the day of and the first 2 days after a bout of 50 injurious eccentric contractions done by the knee extensors, the interpolated-twitch technique was used to assess electrically evoked strength, maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) strength, and percent muscle activation during MVIC both before and after capsule ingestion. These variables were also measured before and after capsule ingestion the day before the eccentric-contraction bout—when the muscle was uninjured. In injured muscle, caffeine had no effect on any variable. In uninjured muscle, caffeine also had no effect on electrically evoked strength but increased MVIC strength by 10.4% compared with placebo (p = .00002), and this was attributed to an increase in muscle activation (6.2%; p = .01). In conclusion, the data provide no evidence that caffeine ingestion can help overcome excitation-contraction-coupling failure, if it exists, in injured human muscle. The data do indicate that caffeine ingestion can increase MVIC strength and activation in uninjured muscle but not in injured muscle.

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Lindsey K. Lepley, Abbey C. Thomas, Scott G. McLean and Riann M. Palmieri-Smith

Context:

As individuals returning to activity after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLr) likely experience fatigue, understanding how fatigue affects knee-muscle activation patterns during sport-like maneuvers is of clinical importance. Fatigue has been suggested to impair neuromuscular control strategies. As a result, fatigue may place ACLr patients at increased risk of developing posttraumatic osteoarthritis (OA).

Objective:

To determine the effects of fatigue on knee-muscle activity post-ACLr.

Design:

Case control.

Setting:

University laboratory.

Participants:

12 individuals 7–10 mo post-ACLr (7 male, 5 female; age 22.1 ± 4.7 y; 1.8 ± 0.1 m; mass 77.7 ± 11.9 kg) and 13 controls (4 male, 9 female; age 22.9 ± 4.3 y; 1.7 ± 0.1 m; mass 66.9 ± 9.8 kg).

Interventions:

Fatigue was induced via repetitive sets of double-leg squats (n = 8), which were interspersed with sets of single-leg landings (n = 3), until squats were no longer possible.

Main Outcome Measures:

2 × 2 repeated-measures ANOVA was used to detect the main effects of group (ACLr, control) and fatigue state (prefatigue, postfatigue) on quadriceps:hamstring cocontraction index (Q:H CCI).

Results:

All subjects demonstrated higher Q:H CCI at prefatigue compared with postfatigue (F 1,23 = 66.949, P ≤ .001). Q:H CCI did not differ between groups (F 1,23 = 0.599, P = .447).

Conclusions:

The results indicate that regardless of fatigue state, ACLr individuals are capable of restoring muscle-activation patterns similar to those in healthy subjects. As a result, excessive muscle cocontraction, which has been hypothesized as a potential mechanism of posttraumatic OA, may not contribute to joint degeneration after ACLr.

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Fábio J. Lanferdini, Rodrigo R. Bini, Pedro Figueiredo, Fernando Diefenthaeler, Carlos B. Mota, Anton Arndt and Marco A. Vaz

Purpose:

To employ cluster analysis to assess if cyclists would opt for different strategies in terms of neuromuscular patterns when pedaling at the power output of their second ventilatory threshold (POVT2) compared with cycling at their maximal power output (POMAX).

Methods:

Twenty athletes performed an incremental cycling test to determine their power output (POMAX and POVT2; first session), and pedal forces, muscle activation, muscle–tendon unit length, and vastus lateralis architecture (fascicle length, pennation angle, and muscle thickness) were recorded (second session) in POMAX and POVT2. Athletes were assigned to 2 clusters based on the behavior of outcome variables at POVT2 and POMAX using cluster analysis.

Results:

Clusters 1 (n = 14) and 2 (n = 6) showed similar power output and oxygen uptake. Cluster 1 presented larger increases in pedal force and knee power than cluster 2, without differences for the index of effectiveness. Cluster 1 presented less variation in knee angle, muscle–tendon unit length, pennation angle, and tendon length than cluster 2. However, clusters 1 and 2 showed similar muscle thickness, fascicle length, and muscle activation. When cycling at POVT2 vs POMAX, cyclists could opt for keeping a constant knee power and pedal-force production, associated with an increase in tendon excursion and a constant fascicle length.

Conclusions:

Increases in power output lead to greater variations in knee angle, muscle–tendon unit length, tendon length, and pennation angle of vastus lateralis for a similar knee-extensor activation and smaller pedal-force changes in cyclists from cluster 2 than in cluster 1.

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Tom G. Welter and Maarten F. Bobbert

This study investigates the hypothesis that EMG measured from a muscle at a given force, length, and low-shortening velocity depends on the contraction history, specifically the distance over which the muscle has shortened. Slow linear horizontal wrist movements (3 cm/s) involving shoulder and elbow rotations towards a test position of 90° elbow flexion were performed. REMG was measured at the test position after wrist displacements over 6.5 and 13 cm. Muscle contraction speed was below 1% of maximum. A constant force (25 N) causing flexion torque in the elbow was exerted by the wrist. Inertial load was minimal. Two main elbow flexors (biceps caput longum and breve) showed significantly higher (14 and 24%) concentric REMG after 13-cm wrist movement than alter 6.5-cm. Eccentric EMG did not differ between the 6.5-and 13-cm conditions. It is concluded that adaptation of muscle activation is required to counteract the effects of contraction history on the force producing capacity of the muscle.

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Alexandre Murian, Thibault Deschamps and Jean Jacques Temprado

The current study investigated the influence of resistance to motion and trial duration on the stability of bimanual coordination patterns and attentional demands. Seven participants performed in-phase and antiphase coordination patterns at a frequency of 1.5 Hz for 300 s. Resistance opposed to pronation–supination movements was manipulated. Attentional demands associated with the bimanual coordination patterns performance were measured using a probe reaction-time task. Results showed that variations in the level of resistance to motion, which induced corresponding variations in the amount of muscle activation during both the in-phase and the antiphase pattern, were associated with longer reaction time. Relative phase variability and attentional demands were higher for the antiphase pattern than for the in-phase pattern. Moreover, the attentional demands did not covary with the increase in the antiphase pattern over the trial duration. The in-phase pattern remained unaffected by resistance opposed to pronation–supination movement. The present findings and the time effect are discussed according to potential alterations localized in different sites at the cortical level.

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Yi-Ming Huang, Ya-Ju Chang, Miao-Ju Hsu, Chia-Ling Chen, Chia-Ying Fang and Alice May-Kuen Wong

The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether agonist muscle fatigue changed the coactivation time and the co-contraction magnitude of the agonist and antagonist muscle, and if the agonist muscle fatigue produced bias (constant error: CE) and inconsistency (variable error: VE) of the force. Subjects are 10 healthy people and one person with impaired proprioception. EMG and force for fast (0.19 ± 0.06 s) and slow (1.20 ± 0.44 s) targeted isometric dorsiflexions were recorded before and after fatigue of the dorsiflexors. The results revealed that the coactivation time increased after fatigue only in the slow contractions but the co-contraction magnitude did not change. The postfatigue increment of the CE was greater in the fast contractions than in the slow ones. We conclude that the postfatigue compensatory strategy can reduce the fatigue-induced bias. The change of muscles activation level after fatigue might be under the influence of the common drive. Impaired proprioception is a possible cause of the fatigue-related increase in bias and inconsistency.

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Tom G. Welter, Maarten F. Bobbert, Bauke M. van Bolhuis, Stan C.A.M. Gielen, Leonard A. Rozendaal and Dirkjan H.E.J. Veeger

We have investigated whether differences in EMG activity in mono- and bi-articuiar muscles for concentric and eccentric contractions (van Bolhuis, Gielen, & van Ingen Schenau, 1998) have to be attributed to a specific muscle coordination strategy or whether they are merely a demonstration of adaptations necessary to adjust for muscle contractile properties. Slow, multi-joint arm movements were studied in a horizontal plane with an external force applied at the wrist. Kinematics and electromyography data from 10 subjects were combined with data from a 3-D model of the arm and a Hill-type muscle model Data for both mono- and bi-articular muscles revealed a higher activation in concentric than in eccentric contractions. The model calculations indicated that the measured difference in activation (20%) was much larger than expected based on the force-velocity relationship (predicting changes of ~5%). Although these findings eliminate the force-velocity relationship as the main explanation for changes in EMG, it cannot be ruled out that other muscle contractile properties, such as history dependence of muscle force, determine muscle activation levels in the task that was studied.

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Eadric Bressel, Gary D. Heise and Greg Bachman

The purpose of this study was to determine how muscle activity and oxygen consumption are influenced by reverse pedaling (RP) compared to forward pedaling (FP). Seventeen physically active males performed FP and RP at an external workrate of 157 W (80 rpm) while EMG data were collected from five muscles: rectus femoris (RF), biceps femoris (BF), gastrocnemius (GN), tibialis anterior (TA), and vastus medialis (VM). Oxygen consumption (V̇O2 L·min-1) data were collected. On-time durations and EMG amplitudes were quantified for each half-cycle (first 180° and second 180° of crank angle). V̇O2 was similar between pedaling conditions while muscles RF and BF exhibited phasic shifts in response to RP with no amplitude change. VM showed an increase and GN displayed a decrease in EMG amplitude from FP to RP. The phasic shifts in muscle activation seen in RP, particularly in RF and BF, may alter the sequence of the knee extensor–hip extensor joint moments during the first half-cycle of pedaling.

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Thomas J. Burkholder and T. Richard Nichols

Postural regulation is an important part of a variety of motor tasks, including quiet standing and locomotion. Muscle length feedback, both the autogenic length feedback arising from a muscle's own spindles, and heterogenic length feedback, arising from its agonists and antagonists, is a strong modulator of muscle force and well suited to postural maintenance. The effects of this reflex feedback on 3-D force generation and limb mechanics are not known. In this paper, we present a mechanical model for relating 3-D changes in cat hindlimb posture to changes in muscle lengths. These changes in muscle length are used to estimate changes in both intrinsic muscle force generation and muscle activation by length feedback pathways. Few muscles are found to have directly agonist mechanical actions, and most differ by more than 20°. Endpoint force fields are largely uniform across the space investigated. Both autogenic and heterogenic feedback contribute to whole limb resistance to perturbation, autogenic pathways being most dramatic. Length feedback strongly reinforced a restoring force in response to end-point displacement.

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Richard E. Hughes, James C. Bean and Don B. Chaffin

Concurrent activation of muscles on opposite sides of joints is a common phenomenon. In simple planar mechanical systems, it is easy to identify such an electromyographic pattern as co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscles. In complex 3-D systems such as the lumbar spine, it is more difficult to precisely identify whether EMG recordings represent co-contraction. Qualitative definitions of antagonist muscles emphasize that their actions wholly oppose the action of the prime movers. The qualitative definition of antagonist muscles was used to formulate a mathematical requirement for there to be co-contraction of agonists and antagonists. It was shown that the definition of co-contraction implies muscle activity beyond what is required to maintain equilibrium. The method was illustrated by classifying EMG recordings made of the lumbar region musculature during tasks involving combined torso extension and axial twisting loads. The method, which identified muscle activity in excess of that required to maintain static equilibrium, could be used to identify conditions in which muscle activation is required for something other than merely maintaining moment equilibrium.