Mademli L, Arampatzis A, Karamanidis K. Institute of Biomechanics and Orthopaedics, German Sport University Cologne, Carl-Diem-Weg 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany.
Many studies report that muscle strength loss may alter the human system's capacity to generate rapid force for balance corrections after perturbations, leading to deficient recovery behaviours. Yet little is known regarding the effect of modifications in the neuromuscular system induced by fatigue on dynamic stability control during postural perturbations. This study investigates the effect of muscle strength decline induced by fatiguing contractions on the dynamic stability control of young and older adults during forward falls. Eleven young and eleven older male adults had to regain balance after sudden falls before and after submaximal fatiguing knee extension-flexion contractions. Young subjects had a higher margin of stability than older ones before and after the fatiguing task. This reflects their enhanced ability in using mechanisms for maintaining dynamic stability (i.e. a greater base of support). The margin of stability, the boundary of the base of support and the position of the extrapolated centre of mass, remained unaffected by the reduction in muscle strength induced by the fatiguing contractions, indicating an appropriate adjustment of the motor commands to compensate the deficit in muscle strength. Both young and older adults were able to counteract the decreased horizontal ground reaction forces after the fatiguing task by flexing their knee to a greater extent, leading to similar decreases in the horizontal velocity of centre of mass as in the pre fatigue condition.
Conclusion: The results demonstrate the ability of the central nervous system to rapidly modify the execution of postural corrections including mechanisms for maintaining dynamic stability.
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