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Am J Sports Med. 1999 Sep-Oct;27(5):594-9.

The role of passive muscle stiffness in symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage.

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School of Sport, Health and Physical Education Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, United Kingdom.


We examined whether passive stiffness of an eccentrically exercising muscle group affects the subsequent symptoms of muscle damage. Passive hamstring muscle stiffness was measured during an instrumented straight-leg-raise stretch in 20 subjects (11 men and 9 women) who were subsequently classified as "stiff" (N = 7), "normal" (N = 6), or "compliant" (N = 7). Passive stiffness was 78% higher in the stiff subjects (36.2 +/- 3.3 N.m.rad(-1)) compared with the compliant subjects (20.3 +/- 1.8 N.m.rad(-1)). Subjects then performed six sets of 10 isokinetic (2.6 rad.s(-1)) submaximal (60% maximal voluntary contraction) eccentric actions of the hamstring muscle group. Symptoms of muscle damage were documented by changes in isometric hamstring muscle strength, pain, muscle tenderness, and creatine kinase activity on the following 3 days. Strength loss, pain, muscle tenderness, and creatine kinase activity were significantly greater in the stiff compared with the compliant subjects on the days after eccentric exercise. Greater symptoms of muscle damage in subjects with stiffer hamstring muscles are consistent with the sarcomere strain theory of muscle damage. The present study provides experimental evidence of an association between flexibility and muscle injury. Muscle stiffness and its clinical correlate, static flexibility, are risk factors for more severe symptoms of muscle damage after eccentric exercise.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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