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Am J Sports Med. 1988 Nov-Dec;16(6):624-9.

Calf muscle area and strength changes after five weeks of horizontal bed rest.

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Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Texas.


Nine male volunteers participated in a 10 week metabolic study in which subjects underwent 5 weeks of ambulatory control and 5 weeks of complete horizontal bed rest. Bed rest is a model commonly used to simulate space flight. The changes in muscle area and strength of the calf dorsiflexors and plantar flexors were measured before and after bed rest using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a Cybex II dynamometer. The muscle area of the plantar flexors (gastrocnemius and soleus) decreased 12%, whereas the muscle area of the dorsiflexors was not significantly decreased. The maximal muscle strength of the plantar flexors decreased 26%; the muscle strength of the dorsiflexors was not significantly decreased. These results, which demonstrate differential muscle atrophy and a larger loss in strength relative to muscle area, have important implications in the development of exercise counter-measures to be implemented during space flight. The results also have implications for patients who have severe orthopaedic disorders and must be bed rested for long periods of time, and for persons who are voluntarily inactive (a large number of the elderly).

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