Background and Purpose: Older adults often experience age-related declines in strength, which contribute to fall risk. Such age-related levels of fall risk may be compounded by further declines in strength caused by acute muscle fatigue. Both age- and fatigue-related strength reductions likely impact the ability to quickly develop joint torques needed to arrest falls. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the combined effects of age and localized muscle fatigue on lower extremity joint torque development.
Methods: Young (mean age, 26 (2.5) years) and older (mean age, 71 (2.8) years) healthy male adults performed an isometric ankle plantar flexion force control task before and after an ankle plantar flexor fatiguing exercise. Force control performance was quantified using onset time, settling time, and rate of torque development.
Results: Age-related increases and decreases were observed for onset time and rate of torque development, respectively. A fatigue-related decrease in rate of torque development was observed in young, but not older adults.
Discussion: The results suggest performance declines that may relate to older adults' reduced ability to prevent falls. A fatigue-related performance decline was observed among young adults, but not older, suggesting the presence of age-related factors such as motor unit remodeling and alterations in perceived exertion.
Conclusions: Older adults demonstrated an overall reduction in the ability to quickly produce ankle torque, which may have implications for balance recovery and fall risk among older adults.