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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Nov;110(5):1047-55. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1585-5. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

Excessive skeletal muscle recruitment during strenuous exercise in McArdle patients.

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UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa.


We compared the cardiorespiratory response and muscle recruitment [as determined by electromyography (EMG)] of 37 McArdle patients [19 males, 37.4 ± 2.8 years, body mass index (BMI): 25.1 ± 4.7 kg m(-2)] and 33 healthy controls (18 males, 36.4 ± 10.0 years, BMI: 25.7 ± 3.8 kg m(-2)) during cycle-ergometer exercise (an incremental test to exhaustion and a 12-min submaximal constant workload test). We obtained cardiorespiratory [oxygen uptake and heart rate (HR)] and EMG data (rectus femoris and vastus lateralis muscles). During the incremental test, the patients exhibited the expected hyperkinetic cardiovascular response shown by a marked increase in the slope of the HR:Power relationship (p < 0.001). Throughout the incremental test and at the point of fatigue, the patients produced significantly less power than the controls (peak power output: 67 ± 21 vs. 214 ± 56 watts respectively, p < 0.001), yet they demonstrated significantly higher levels of muscle activity for a given absolute power. During the constant workload test, patients displayed higher levels of EMG activity than the controls during the second half of the test, despite a lower power production (34 ± 13 vs. 94 ± 29 watts respectively, p < 0.001). In conclusion, since the McArdle patients required more motor unit recruitment for a given power output, our data suggest that the state of contractility of their muscles is reduced compared with healthy people. Excessive muscle recruitment for a given load could be one of the mechanisms explaining the exercise intolerance of these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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