The role of fatigue in susceptibility to acute muscle strain injury

Am J Sports Med. 1996 Mar-Apr;24(2):137-43. doi: 10.1177/036354659602400203.


We investigated the role of fatigue in muscle strain injuries using the extensor digitorum longus muscles of 48 rabbits. The muscles of the rabbits were fatigued by 25% or 50% then stretched to failure and compared with the contralateral controls. Three rates of stretch were used. The force to muscle failure was reduced in the fatigued leg in all groups (range, 93% to 97.4% compared with the controls). The change in muscle length in the fatigue groups was not different from the controls. The amount of energy absorbed in the fatigued muscle was 69.7% to 92% that of the energy absorbed in the control muscle. The lowest energy absorption occurred in muscles that were more fatigued. In eight additional rabbits, fatigued extensor digitorum longus muscles were compared with submaximally stimulated muscles with the equivalent contractile properties, and no difference was seen. Muscles subjected to strains are frequently injured under high-intensity eccentric loading conditions. Under these conditions, muscles absorb energy and provide control and regulation of limb movement. Our data showed that muscles are injured at the same length, regardless of the effects of fatigue. However, fatigued muscles are able to absorb less energy before reaching the degree of stretch that causes injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Fatigue*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Rabbits
  • Sprains and Strains / etiology
  • Sprains and Strains / physiopathology*
  • Sprains and Strains / prevention & control