Position sense acuity is diminished following repetitive low-intensity work to fatigue in a simulated occupational setting
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Repetitive work to fatigue is soundly associated with work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD), although the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that fatiguing work leads to proprioceptive deficits, which can be an initiating factor for the occurrence of WMSD. Thus, the position sense of the shoulder was determined for 13 males and 13 females before and after performing repetitive low-intensity arm work to fatigue in a simulated occupational setting. From a starting position of 45° to the sagittal plane, position sense tests consisted of subjects attempting to actively reproduce target positions of horizontal movements to 15° and 30° (shoulder adduction) and to 60° and 75° (shoulder abduction). An analysis of variance revealed that the absolute error was significantly increased following fatigue for the subjects as a group (P < 0.001). Furthermore, females had an overall higher error than males (P < 0.01). No difference in error was detected for the shorter movements versus the longer movements. However, the overall absolute error for adduction was significantly higher than for abduction (P < 0.001). The results of the present study support the hypothesis of diminished proprioceptive acuity following low-intensity work to fatigue. A reduction in position sense acuity could lead to impairment in motor control, which would further impact on position sense. Thus, a vicious cycle may be activated that might result in WMSD. The poorer position sense acuity observed for females may contribute to the explanation of why females demonstrate a higher incidence of WMSD than males.
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