Muscle fatigue, a reduction in force as a consequence of exercise, is an important factor for any animal that moves, and can result from both peripheral and/or central mechanisms. Although much is known about whole-limb force generation and activation patterns in fatigued muscles under sustained isometric contractions, little is known about the in vivo dynamics of limb muscle function in relation to whole-body fatigue. Here we show that limb kinematics and contractile function in the lateral (LG) and medial (MG) gastrocnemius of helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) are significantly altered following fatiguing exercise at 2ms-1 on an inclined treadmill. The two most significant findings were that the variation in muscle force generation, measured directly from the muscles' tendons, increased significantly with fatigue, and fascicle shortening in the proximal MG, but not the distal MG, decreased significantly with fatigue. We suggest that the former is a potential mechanism for decreased stability associated with fatigue. The region-specific alteration of fascicle behaviour within the MG as a result of fatigue suggests a complex response to fatigue that probably depends on muscle-aponeurosis and tendon architecture not previously explored. These findings highlight the importance of studying the integrative in vivo dynamics of muscle function in response to fatigue.
Higham, Timothy EBiewener, Andrew AengR01-AR047679/AR/NIAMS NIH HHS/Research Support, N.I.H., ExtramuralEngland2009/01/09 09:00Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Mar 22;276(1659):1193-7. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1734.