Electromyography in sports and occupational settings: an update of its limits and possibilities

Ergonomics. 2000 Oct;43(10):1750-62. doi: 10.1080/001401300750004159.


The detection of the electrical signal from human and animal muscle dates from long before L. Galvani who took credit for it. J. Swammerdam had already shown the Duke of Tuscany in 1658 the mechanics of muscular contraction. Even if 'electrology or localised electrisation' - the original terminology for electromyography (EMG) - contained the oldest biological scientific detection and measuring techniques, EMG remained a 'supporting' measurement with limited discriminating use, except in conjunction with other methods. All this changed when EMG became a diagnostic tool for studies of muscle weakness, fatigue, pareses, paralysis. and nerve conduction velocities, lesions of the motor unit or for neurogenic and myogenic problems. In addition to the measurement qualities, the electrical signal could be induced as functional electrical stimulation (FES), which developed as a specific rehabilitation tool. Almost in parallel and within the expanding area of EMG, a speciality developed wherein the aim was to use EMG for the study of muscular function and coordination of muscles in different movements and postures. Kinesiological EMG and therewith surface EMG can be applied in studies of normal muscle function during selected movements and postures; muscle activity in complex sports; occupational and rehabilitation movements; isometric contraction with increasing tension up to the maximal voluntary contraction, evaluation of functional anatomical muscle activity (validation of classical anatomical functions); coordination and synchronization studies (kinematic chain); specificity and efficiency of training methods; fatigue; the relationship between EMG and force; the human-machine interaction; the influence of material on muscle activity, occupational loading in relation to lower back pain and joint kinematics. Within these various applications the recording system (e.g. the signal detection, the volume conduction, signal amplification, impedance and frequency responses, the signal characteristics) and the data-processing system (e.g. rectification, linear envelope and normalization methods) go hand in hand with a critical appraisal of choices, limits and possibilities.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography* / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Sports / physiology*