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Can J Appl Physiol. 2002 Feb;27(1):42-55.

What is fatigue?

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Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2N 1N4.


Fatigue and potentiation are two forms of force modulation. A general definition of fatigue is "a circumstance where less than the anticipated contractile response is obtained." Fatigue is associated with depressed Ca2+ release and possibly decreased Ca2+ sensitivity. Potentiation results from increased Ca2+ sensitivity due to regulatory light chain phosphorylation. Muscle fatigue and potentiation can coexist, making it difficult to quantify these processes. With repetitive 10Hz stimulation, the developed tension first increases, then decreases. Is fatigue present when developed tension first begins to decrease or when it falls below the developed tension of the first response? Intermittent incompletely fused tetanic contractions for which peak developed tension first decreases, then increases, is another unusual example of fatigue. A third example is when twitch contractions following a tetanic contraction decrease to a level below the pretetanic twitch amplitude, indicating that fatigue may have been coexistent with posttetanic potentiation. These observations illustrate the complexity of detecting fatigue, based on the simple, but commonly accepted definition presented above. Care must be taken in interpreting "before vs. after" contractile responses. Even when the contraction amplitude is greater than the initial response, there is no guarantee that mechanisms associated with fatigue are not present.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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