Contraction-specific differences in maximal muscle power during stretch-shortening cycle movements in elderly males and females
Elderly people (age 75 years; n=48 males and 34 females) were studied in order to elucidate gender differences in elderly subjects on the determinants of muscle power (force and velocity) during a stretch-shortening cycle. All subjects performed three maximal counter-movement vertical jumps using both legs, on a force platform (Kistler 9281 B). The eccentric (Ep) and concentric (Cp) phases of the jumps were analyzed. The Ep was further divided into an acceleration phase (Epacc: from the start of the downward movement to the maximal negative velocity) and deceleration phase (Epdec: from the maximal negative velocity to the end of the downward movement). Jump height for the men was higher than for the women (P < 0.001). During both Epacc and Epdec no significant differences were observed between males and females in force and power generation. However, the men had a higher peak muscle power during the Cp, which may be explained exclusively by the velocity determinant (P < 0.001). No specific gender-related strategy appeared to influence the motor pattern of the movement. The comparable eccentric force generation of the leg extensors in both genders suggests a similar ability to cope with eccentric muscle actions during everyday activities. In contrast, the marked lower capacity for concentric contractions in women may result in an impaired performance, especially in activities where intense and rapid movements are essential, for example when reversing a forward fall. This may be one reason why elderly women are more prone to falls than are elderly men.
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