The responses of leg and trunk muscles to sudden unloading of the hands: implications for balance and spine stability.

Department of Kinesiology, School of Human Kinetics, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada N9B 3P4.
Clinical Biomechanics (Impact Factor: 1.87). 11/2003; 18(9):812-20. DOI: 10.1016/S0268-0033(03)00167-0
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To examine the anticipatory and responsive actions of leg and trunk muscles, and their role in whole-body and spine control in situations of sudden unloading of the hands in the sagittal plane.
EMG and force plate measures were used to determine the baseline, anticipatory responses and post unloading responses of selected trunk and leg muscles under different conditions of unload timing knowledge.
Postural muscles have been observed to increase activation in anticipation of a known loading situation to decrease the overall effect of an impulsive load delivered to the spine. It is thought that this increased activation places the spine in a more stable state, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury. Comparisons have not been made previously of the responses of postural muscles to unloading conditions where the certainty of unload timing is varied.
Eleven male subjects, holding a 6.8 kg load in the hands, were subjected to three different unloading conditions: (1) voluntary load drop; (2) known timing of load release; (3) unknown timing of load release. Anterior-posterior center of pressure data, as well as EMG activity on 8 right side muscles, were collected for 10 trials in each condition.
Anterior-posterior center of pressure responses were significantly different (P<0.05) between each of the three conditions. Lumbar erector spinae and thoracic erector spinae significantly decreased anticipatory activity as knowledge of the unload timing increased. Five of the eight monitored muscles demonstrated significantly decreased response levels as knowledge of the timing of unloading increased.
When an unload is self-triggered, preparatory adjustments can be made which reduce the overall postural perturbation to the body, and the spine in particular, while minimizing the responsive activity of trunk muscles.
Spinal instability has been identified as a risk factor for low back injury during trunk loading. This study demonstrates that, in situations of sudden unloading, knowledge of the timing of the unloading may lead to anticipatory actions of postural muscles which actually decrease spinal stability, thereby increasing the risk of injury were an unexpected perturbation to occur.

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May 21, 2014