Short-duration fatigue alters neuromuscular coordination of trunk musculature: implications for injury

Appl Ergon. 2003 Jul;34(4):317-25. doi: 10.1016/S0003-6870(03)00039-5.


The aim of this investigation was to determine the effect of muscle fatigue, produced by two different fatigue protocols, on the coordination of trunk and thigh muscles during the performance of a manual-handling task (e.g. a weighted stoop lift). The two fatigue protocols were designed to produce either (a) a non-specific widespread fatigue of trunk and limb muscles (e.g. rowing fatigue protocol), or (b) a specific fatigue of the trunk extensor musculature (e.g. back extension fatigue protocol). Specifically, we wished to determine whether the coordination of trunk muscles during a stoop lift was compromised more, or less, by either of these two fatigue protocols. Ten male subjects (20-24 years) were tested utilising an electromyographic technique which collected electromyograms from trunk flexor and extensor muscles, as well as the Hamstring muscle group, during a pre- and a post-fatigue performance of a weighted stoop lift. The results showed that the back extension fatigue protocol, but not the rowing fatigue protocol, produced significant (p<0.05) changes in the timing of trunk muscle activation during a stoop lift. The longer periods of muscle activation seen only after the back extension fatigue protocol, suggested that fatigue of these muscles had required the CNS to alter their periods of activation to a pattern similar to that previously seen in elderly populations. The results also suggested that intense short-duration motor tasks, which may differentially target the back and its musculature, could leave the spine susceptible to increased risk of injury even though worker perceptions of general fatigue are low. Risk assessment guidelines for manual handling should consider not only the weight and frequency of the lift, but lift duration as well to maintain worker safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Lifting
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Reference Values