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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Dec;105(6):1845-51. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.90445.2008. Epub 2008 Oct 16.

Short-term immobilization and recovery affect skeletal muscle but not collagen tissue turnover in humans.

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Institute of Sports Medicine Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, 2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark.


Not much is known about the effects of immobilization and subsequent recovery on tendon connective tissue. In the present study, healthy young men had their nondominant leg immobilized for a 2-wk period, followed by a recovery period of the same length. Immobilization resulted in a mean decrease of 6% (5,413 to 5,077 mm(2)) in cross-sectional area (CSA) of the triceps surae muscles and a mean decrease of 9% (261 to 238 N.m) in strength of the immobilized calf muscles. Two weeks of recovery resulted in a 6% increased in CSA (to 5,367 mm(2)), whereas strength remained suppressed (240 N.m). No difference in Achilles tendon CSA was detected between the two legs at any time point. Local tendon collagen synthesis, measured as the peritendinous concentrations of PINP (NH(2)-terminal propeptide of type I collagen; indirect marker for collagen synthesis), was unchanged after 2 wk of immobilization. However, peritendinous levels of PINP were significantly elevated in the immobilized leg (15 to 139 ng/ml) following 2 wk of remobilization compared with preimmobilization levels. In contradiction hereto, systemic concentrations of PINP remained unchanged throughout the study. Immobilization reduced muscle size and strength, while tendon size and collagen turnover were unchanged. While recovery resulted in an increase in muscle size, strength was unchanged. No significant difference in tendon size could be detected between the two legs after 2 wk of recovery, although collagen synthesis was increased in the previously immobilized leg. Thus 2 wk of immobilization are sufficient to induce significant changes in muscle tissue, whereas tendon tissue seems to be more resistant to short-term immobilization.

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