Initial events in exercise-induced muscular injury

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1990 Aug;22(4):429-35.


Immediately following unaccustomed exercise, particularly that with eccentric contractions, there is evidence of injury to skeletal muscle fibers: a) disruption of the normal myofilament structures in some sarcomeres, observable with both light and electron microscope and b) loss of intramuscular proteins (e.g., creatine kinase enzymes) into the plasma, indicating damage to sarcolemma. This pathology is probably responsible for the temporary reductions in muscle force and delayed-onset soreness that can occur following eccentric exercise. The mechanisms underlying this injury are not known, although loss of intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis could play a primary role. In other experimental muscle injury models, elevated [Ca2+]i appears to cause release of muscle enzymes through activation of phospholipase A2, which in turn could induce injury to sarcolemma through production of leukotrienes and prostaglandins, through free O2 radical formation (in the subsequent lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase reactions), and/or through release of detergent lysophospholipids. On the other hand, the mechanism responsible for the rapid damage to myofibrils caused by increased [Ca2+]i is unknown. Regardless of the cause(s), the initial and early events in the injury process are autogenetic; i.e., they are indigenous to the muscle cells and occur before phagocytic cells enter the injury site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Exercise*
  • Free Radicals
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Muscles / ultrastructure
  • Sarcolemma / ultrastructure
  • Sprains and Strains / metabolism
  • Sprains and Strains / physiopathology*


  • Free Radicals
  • Calcium