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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2017

Central and peripheral fatigue development in the shoulder muscle with obesity during an isometric endurance task

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2017
Mojdeh Pajoutan, Mahboobeh Ghesmaty Sangachin, Lora A. Cavuoto



Fatigue increases the likelihood of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders and injury. Due to the physiological and neuromuscular changes that accompany obesity, it may alter the fatigue development mechanism and exacerbate injury risk. The upper extremities have the highest incidence rates for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Therefore, the goals of this study were to investigate the effect of obesity on central vs. peripheral fatigue as well as on the physical signs of fatigue on the middle deltoid muscle.


A measure of central activation ratio was used to quantify central fatigue by considering the increment in the torque output by superimposed twitch relative to its corresponding maximum voluntary contraction. For this purpose, electrical stimulation was delivered at the middle deltoid muscles of 22 non-obese (18 < body mass index (BMI) < 25 kg/m2) and 17 obese (30 < BMI < 40 kg/m2) individuals aged 18-32 years old. Participants completed superimposed maximum voluntary isometric contractions of shoulder abduction before and after a sustained isometric fatiguing task at either 30 or 60% of the muscle capacity. Differences in endurance time, torque fluctuation, torque loss, and muscle activity measured by an electromyography sensor were also investigated.


A greater reduction of voluntary activation of motor units (p = 0.001) with fatigue was observed for individuals who are obese. Contrary to the effect of obesity on central fatigue, a trend toward reduced peripheral fatigue (p = 0.06) was observed for the obese group compared to the non-obese group. On average, a 14% higher rate of torque loss per second was observed among individuals with obesity in comparison to non-obese participants.


The observed greater contribution of central fatigue during the sustained endurance tasks suggests that among young healthy obese individuals, the faster fatigue development with obesity, commonly reported in the literature, is most likely due to the central elements rather than the peripheral factors. This finding has implications for fatigue prevention programs during sustained exertions and can help to develop training, work, and rest schedules considering obesity.
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