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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Jul;105(1):299-307. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00738.2007. Epub 2008 May 1.

Comparative MRI analysis of T2 changes associated with single and repeated bouts of downhill running leading to eccentric-induced muscle damage.

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  • 1Centre de Résonance Magnétique Biologique et Médicale, Unite Mixte de Recherche (UMR) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) 6612, Faculté de Médecine de Marseille, Marseille, France.


Although the exact mechanisms are still unclear, it is commonly acknowledged that acute eccentric exercise alters muscle performance, whereas the repetition of successive bouts leads to the disappearance of the deleterious signs. To clarify this issue, we measured blood creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase activities and proton transverse relaxation time (T2) in various leg muscles 72 h after single and repeated bouts of exhausting downhill running sessions (-15 degrees , 1.5 km/h) with either 4 or 7 days elapsed between bouts. After a single exercise bout, T2 and enzyme activities initially increased and recovered rapidly. When exercise bouts were repeated over a short time period (4 days), initial changes did not recover and endurance time throughout additional exercise sessions was significantly reduced. On the contrary, with a longer resting time between exercises (7 days), the endurance time of additional running sessions was significantly longer and muscle changes (T2 increase, muscle edema, and enzyme activity changes) slowly and completely reversed. Significant correlations were found between T2 changes and enzyme activities. T2 changes in the soleus and gastrocnemius muscle heads were differently affected by lengthening contractions, suggesting a muscle specificity and indicating that muscle alterations might be linked to different anatomical properties, such as fiber pennation angles, typology, and/or the exhausting nature of the downhill running sessions. We documented a "less muscle injury" effect due to the repetition of exercise bouts at a low frequency (i.e., 1 session per week) in accordance with the delayed muscle inflammation. This effect was not observed when the between-exercise resting time was shorter.

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