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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 Mar;96(5):593-9. Epub 2006 Jan 14.

Recovery of hand grip strength and hand steadiness after exhausting manual stretcher carriage.

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  • 1Department IV-Military Ergonomics and Exercise Physiology, Central Institute of the Federal Armed Forces Medical Services Koblenz, Andernacher Str. 100, 56070, Koblenz, Germany.


Rescue activities frequently require not only substantial and sustained hand-grip forces but also a subtle coordination of hand and finger muscles, e.g. when manipulating injection syringes after manual stretcher carriage. We investigated the recovery kinetics of manual coordination and muscle strength after exhausting stretcher carriage (4.5 km/h, load at each handle bar: 25 kg). Hand steadiness (frequency and duration of wall contacts when holding a metal pin into a small bore) and parameters of hand-grip strength were determined in 15 male volunteers before and immediately after the stretcher carriage. Measurements were repeated after 0.5, 1, 4 and 24 h of recovery. Mean carrying time was 215+/-87 s (SD), mean transport distance amounted to 264+/-104 m. During the carriage test, forces at the stretcher handles oscillated in the order of +/-50 N within each gait cycle. Immediately after exhaustion, hand steadiness was significantly deteriorated (threefold increase in frequency and duration of wall contacts), maximum and mean hand-grip force over 15 s were reduced by almost 20%. While the recovery of hand steadiness was complete by minute 30 after stretcher carriage, a significant reduction in maximum and mean hand-grip force by 12% could still be observed after 24 h. The present findings demonstrate that hand steadiness recovers much faster than maximum hand-grip strength after exhaustive manual stretcher carriage (less than 30 min vs. more than 24 h). Probably, muscle damage induced in particular by the eccentric components during stretcher transport seems to affect only the generation of large forces. By contrast, the generation and coordination of the much lower forces required for hand-steadiness appears to be impaired only during the short transient of metabolic recovery.

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