Functional recovery of the plantarflexor muscle group after hindlimb unloading in the rat

G. L. Warren, J. L. Stallone, M. R. Allen, S. A. Bloomfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations


Research into skeletal muscle's response to hindlimb unloading (HU) of the rodent has focused on that of the markedly affected slow-twitch anti-gravity muscles (e.g., soleus). However, the ability of the animal to locomote following HU should be best determined by the in vivo functional properties of the muscle groups involved and, to our knowledge, this has not been investigated. Our objective was to determine how the in vivo functional properties of the rat ankle plantarflexor group change after 28 days of HU and during a subsequent 28-day recovery. Rats (n = 48) were unloaded for 28 days after which they were either tested immediately or allowed to recover for 7, 14, or 28 days before being tested. Control rats (n = 61) were tested at comparable times. In vivo functional properties of the ankle plantarflexors were assessed under anesthesia using an isokinetic dynamometer and included determination of the isometric torque-frequency relationship, the concentric torque-ankle angular velocity relationship, and fatigability. Immediately after HU, plantarflexor muscle weight was reduced by 24% but isometric torque production was reduced by 7-9% only at ≥100 Hz and concentric torque production was not significantly affected. However, after 7 days of recovery, in vivo function was more adversely affected; isometric and concentric torques were reduced by 12-33% and 16-36%, respectively, relative to control levels. In vivo plantarflexor function was recovered by 14 days. In conclusion, 28 days of HU has minor adverse effects on the in vivo function of the rat ankle plantarflexors. During the first week of recovery from HU, injury apparently occurs to the plantarflexors resulting in a transient impairment of functional capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Hindlimb suspension
  • Muscle injury
  • Overuse injury
  • Weightlessness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physiology (medical)

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