Fatigue-related loading imbalance on the shank in running: a possible factor in stress fractures

Ann Biomed Eng. 2000 Apr;28(4):463-9. doi: 10.1114/1.284.


In previous reports we have shown that in long distance running the impact acceleration on the shank increases with progressing fatigue. The aim of the present study was to test whether, in parallel to this increase, an imbalance in the activities between the ankle plantar and dorsi flexor muscles develops. The tests were made on fourteen subjects during 30 min treadmill running above their anaerobic thresholds. Respiratory data were collected to determine the anaerobic threshold speed and to indicate the progressively developing metabolic fatigue. Surface electromyogram (EMG) was monitored to indicate the changing activity of the shank muscles. In the tibialis anterior the average integrated EMG (iEMG) and the mean power frequency (MPF) significantly decreased from the beginning to the end of running. In the gastrocnemius iEMG did not change, while MPF increased during the course of running. The impact acceleration, measured by means of an accelerometer attached to the tibial tuberosity, significantly increased during the course of running. It was concluded that, with developing fatigue, an imbalance in the contraction of the shank muscles develops in parallel to an increase in shank shock acceleration. The combination of these two changes may hamper the loading balance on the tibia since the bone becomes exposed to excessive bending stresses and to higher risk of stress injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electromyography
  • Fractures, Stress / etiology*
  • Fractures, Stress / physiopathology
  • Heel
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Running / injuries*
  • Running / physiology
  • Tibial Fractures / etiology*
  • Tibial Fractures / physiopathology