Prolonged unaccustomed exercise involving muscle lengthening (eccentric) actions can result in ultrastructural muscle disruption, impaired excitation-contraction coupling, inflammation and muscle protein degradation. This process is associated with delayed onset muscle soreness and is referred to as exercise-induced muscle damage. Although a certain amount of muscle damage may be necessary for adaptation to occur, excessive damage or inadequate recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage can increase injury risk, particularly in older individuals, who experience more damage and require longer to recover from muscle damaging exercise than younger adults. Furthermore, it is apparent that inter-individual variation exists in the response to exercise-induced muscle damage, and there is evidence that genetic variability may play a key role. Although this area of research is in its infancy, certain gene variations, or polymorphisms have been associated with exercise-induced muscle damage (i.e. individuals with certain genotypes experience greater muscle damage, and require longer recovery, following strenuous exercise). These polymorphisms include ACTN3 (R577X, rs1815739), TNF (-308 G>A, rs1800629), IL6 (-174 G>C, rs1800795), and IGF2 (ApaI, 17200 G>A, rs680). Knowing how someone is likely to respond to a particular type of exercise could help coaches/practitioners individualise the exercise training of their athletes/patients, thus maximising recovery and adaptation, while reducing overload-associated injury risk. The purpose of this review is to provide a critical analysis of the literature concerning gene polymorphisms associated with exercise-induced muscle damage, both in young and older individuals, and to highlight the potential mechanisms underpinning these associations, thus providing a better understanding of exercise-induced muscle damage.
Keywords: Creatine kinase; Delayed onset muscle soreness; Elderly; Exercise-induced muscle damage; Single nucleotide polymorphism.