Thermal effects on skeletal muscle tensile behavior

T. J. Noonan, T. M. Best, A. V. Seaber, W. E. Garrett, J. T. Andrish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The effect of temperature on the mechanical failure properties of rabbit skeletal muscle (tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus) was examined. For all tests, one leg was maintained at 25°C and the contralateral leg at 40°C. Muscles were pulled to failure according to assignment into one of three groups: 1) passive failure at 10 cm/sec, 2) passive failure at 1 cm/sec, or 3) active (muscle is stimulated to contract as it is pulled) failure at 10 cm/sec. Load to failure was higher in the cold muscle for all groups tested. Total deformation was the same except in Group 1, when the warm muscle had a greater deformation. Energy absorbed before failure was greater in the cold muscle in Groups 2 and 3. Stiffness was higher in cold muscles for all muscles except the extensor digitorum longus in Group 1. In this study, temperature had a significant effect on the tensile properties; these thermal effects were dependent on both loading rate and contractile state. Comparing loading rates, warm muscle tested at 10 cm/sec had higher failure loads than that tested at 1 cm/sec. Comparing stimulated versus unstimulated muscle (Group 1 versus Group 3), the stimulated tibialis anterior muscle absorbed more energy than unstimulated ones. Stimulated extensor digitorum longus muscles had higher failure loads, absorbed more energy, and were stiffer than nonstimulated muscles. This study offers experimental data to support the theory that warming muscles can aid in injury prevention and improvement in athletic performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-522
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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