Electrically evoked contractions of the triceps surae during and following 21 days of voluntary leg immobilization

  • C. T. M. Davies
  • I. C. Rutherford
  • D. O. Thomas


The effects of 21 days voluntary leg (plaster) immobilization on the mechanical properties of the triceps surae have been studied in 11 young female subjects, mean age 19.4 years. The results show that during the period of immobilization the mean time to peak tension (TPT) and half relaxation time (1/2RT) and tension (Pt) of the maximal twitch increased significantly (p<0.001) but the effects were short lived. Maximal tension and contraction times of the twitch recovered within 2–14 days following the removal of the plaster cast. The electrically evoked tetanic tensions at 10 Hz and 20 Hz did not change significantly (p>0.1) during immobilization, but the 50 Hz tetanic tension (P°50) and maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) were reduced (p<0.05). The fall in P°50 and MVC was associated with 10% decrease in the estimated muscle (plus bone) cross-sectional area. The relative (%) change in P°50 and MVC following immobilization was related to the initial physiological status (as indicated by the response of the triceps surae to a standard fatigue test prior to immobilization) of the muscle. The rate of rise and recovery fall of the tetanus were slightly but significantly (p<0.01) reduced on day 7 of immobilization, but thereafter remained constant. The isokinetic properties of the triceps surae as reflected in the measured torque/velocity relation of the muscle in 4 subjects did not change significantly if account was taken of the slight degree of atrophy present following immobilization. It was concluded that short term voluntary leg immobilization produces atrophy and some loss of isometric twitch and tetanic function, but has little effect on the isokinetic properties of the triceps surae. The changes in the twitch characteristics during and immediately following immobilization may be indicative of a prolongation of the active state of the muscle.

Key words

Muscle Isometric contractions Atrophy Isokinetic contractions Immobilization 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. T. M. Davies
    • 1
  • I. C. Rutherford
    • 1
  • D. O. Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.MRC Muscle Group, Department of Physiology and PharmacologyQueen's Medical CentreNottinghamGreat Britain

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