The effect of plantar flexor muscle fatigue on postural control

Yoav Gimmon, Raziel Riemer, Lars Oddsson, Itshak Melzer
Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2011, 21 (6): 922-8

OBJECTIVE: Previous studies have demonstrated that ankle muscle fatigue alters postural sway. Our aim was to better understand postural control mechanisms during upright stance following plantar flexor fatigue.

METHOD: Ten healthy young volunteers, 25.7±2.2 years old, were recruited. Foot center-of-pressure (CoP) displacement data were collected during narrow base upright stance and eyes closed (i.e. blindfolded) conditions. Subjects were instructed to stand upright and as still as possible on a force platform under five test conditions: (1) non-fatigue standing on firm surface; (2) non-fatigue standing on foam; (3) ankle plantar flexor fatigue, standing on firm surface; (4) ankle plantar flexor fatigue, standing on foam; and (5) upper limb fatigue, standing on firm surface. An average of the ten 30-s trials in each of five test conditions was calculated to assess the mean differences between the trials. Traditional measures of postural stability and stabilogram-diffusion analysis (SDA) parameters were analyzed.

RESULTS: Traditional center of pressure parameters were affected by plantar flexor fatigue, especially in the AP direction. For the SDA parameters, plantar flexor fatigue caused significantly higher short-term diffusion coefficients, and critical displacement in both mediolateral (ML) and anteroposterior (AP) directions. Long-term postural sway was different only in the AP direction.

CONCLUSIONS: Localized plantar flexor fatigue caused impairment to postural control mainly in the Sagittal plane. The findings indicate that postural corrections, on average, occurred at a higher threshold of sway during plantar flexor fatigue compared to non-fatigue conditions.

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