Purpose: This study aimed to evaluate the benefit of using low-intensity running or electromyostimulation (EMS) to hasten the recovery process from eccentric-contraction–induced injury.
Methods: Before and 30 min, 24 h, 48 h, and 96 h after a one-legged downhill run, electrical stimulations were applied to the femoral nerve of healthy volunteers. Superimposed twitches were delivered during isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) to determine the voluntary activation level (%VA). For 4 d after the exercise, each subject performed either (i) 30 min of running at 50% V̇ O2max, (ii) 30 min of low-frequency EMS on the lower limb extensor muscles, or (iii) passive recovery.
Results: Recovery time courses of the different variables did not differ significantly among the three experimental conditions. MVC decreased 30 min after the exercise and did not recover thereafter (P < 0.001). Percent VA was depressed after the exercise (P < 0.05) but did not contribute to MVC decrement thereafter. Mechanical responses to 80- and 20-Hz stimulation (P80 and P20, respectively) were significantly reduced over time (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively). Interestingly, MVC, P20, and P80 decrements were not statistically different (−9.6 ± 14.5%, −13.2 ± 14.2%, and −12.3 ± 11.3%, respectively) at 48 h, and the P20·P80−1 ratio showed complete recovery at this time.
Conclusions: The different recovery modes had no significant effect on the recovery time course of contractile properties. The prolonged torque loss is mainly due to peripheral alterations. Our results suggest that an alteration of the excitation-contraction coupling might be involved during the first 2 d after the eccentric exercise. From 2 to 4 d, damage to force-generating structures could account for the remaining torque deficit.