Time-dependent neuromuscular parameters in the plantar flexors support greater fatigability of old compared with younger males

Jonathan W Wallace, Geoffrey A Power, Charles L Rice, Brian H Dalton
Experimental Gerontology 2016, 74: 13-20
Older adults are more fatigable than young during dynamic tasks, especially those that involve moderate to fast unconstrained velocity shortening contractions. Rate of torque development (RTD), rate of velocity development (RVD) and rate of neuromuscular activation are time-dependent neuromuscular parameters which have not been explored in relation to age-related differences in fatigability. The purpose was to determine whether these time-dependent measures affect the greater age-related fatigability in peak power during moderately fast and maximal effort shortening plantar flexions. Neuromuscular properties were recorded from 10 old (~ 78 years) and 10 young (~ 24 years) men during 50 maximal-effort unconstrained velocity shortening plantar flexions against a resistance equivalent to 20% maximal voluntary isometric contraction torque. At task termination, peak power, and angular velocity, and torque at peak power were decreased by 30, 18, and 16%, respectively, for the young (p < 0.05), and 46, 28, 30% for the old (p < 0.05) compared to pre-fatigue values with the old exhibiting greater reductions across all measures (p<0.05). Voluntary RVD and RTD decreased, respectively, by 24 and 26% in the young and by 47 and 40% in the old at task termination, with greater decrements in the old (p < 0.05). Rate of neuromuscular activation of the soleus decreased over time for both age groups (~ 47%; p < 0.05), but for the medial gastrocnemius (MG) only the old experienced significant decrements (46%) by task termination. All parameters were correlated strongly with the fatigue-related reduction in peak power (r = 0.81-0.94, p < 0.05), except for MG and soleus rates of neuromuscular activation (r = 0.25-0.30, p > 0.10). Fatigue-related declines in voluntary RTD and RVD were both moderately correlated with MG rate of neuromuscular activation (r = 0.51-0.52, p < 0.05), but exhibited a trend with soleus (r = 0.39-0.41, p = 0.07-0.09). Thus, time-dependent factors, RVD and RTD, are likely important indicators of intrinsic muscle properties leading to the greater age-related decline in peak power when performing a repetitive dynamic fatigue task, which may be due to greater fatigue-related central impairments for the older men than young.

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