Trekking Poles Reduce Exercise-Induced Muscle Injury during Mountain Walking

HOWATSON, GLYN1; HOUGH, PAUL2; PATTISON, JOHN2; HILL, JESSICA A.2; BLAGROVE, RICHARD2; GLAISTER, MARK2; THOMPSON, KEVIN G.1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 1 - pp 140-145
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e4b649
Applied Sciences

Temporary muscle damage precipitated by downhill walking affects muscle function and potentially exposes muscle to further musculoskeletal injury.

Purpose: We hypothesized that the use of trekking poles would help maintain muscle function and reduce indices of muscle damage after a day's mountain trekking.

Methods: Thirty-seven physically active males (n = 26) and females (n = 11) volunteered to participate and were divided into either a trekking pole (TP) or no pole (NP) group. Participants carried a day sack (5.6 ± 1.5 kg) and made the ascent and descent of the highest peak in England and Wales (Mount Snowdon). HR and RPE were recorded during the ascent and descent. Indices of muscle damage, namely, maximal voluntary contraction, muscle soreness, creatine kinase (CK), and vertical jump performance, were measured before, immediately after (except CK), and 24, 48, and 72 h after trek.

Results: HR was not different between groups, although RPE was significantly lower in TP during the ascent. The TP group showed attenuation of reductions in maximal voluntary contraction immediately after and 24 and 48 h after the trek; muscle soreness was significantly lower at 24 and 48 h after the trek, and CK was also lower at 24 h after the trek in the TP group. No differences in vertical jump were found.

Conclusions: Trekking poles reduce RPE on mountain ascents, reduce indices of muscle damage, assist in maintaining muscle function in the days after a mountain trek, and reduce the potential for subsequent injury.

1School of Life Sciences, University of Northumbria, Newcastle, England, UNITED KINGDOM; and 2School of Human Sciences, St Mary's University College, Twickenham, England, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Glyn Howatson, Ph.D., School of Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle, NE1 8ST, United Kingdom; E-mail: glyn.howatson@unn.ac.uk.

Submitted for publication February 2010.

Accepted for publication April 2010.

©2011The American College of Sports Medicine