OBJECTIVES: Temperature is known to influence muscle physiology, with the velocity of shortening, relaxation and propagation all increasing with temperature. Scant data are available, however, regarding thermal influences on energy required to induce muscle damage.
METHODS: Gastrocnemius and soleus muscles were harvested from 36 male rat limbs and exposed to increasing impact energy in a mechanical test rig. Muscle temperature was varied in 5°C increments, from 17°C to 42°C (to encompass the in vivo range). The energy causing non-recoverable deformation was recorded for each temperature. A measure of tissue elasticity was determined via accelerometer data, smoothed by low-pass fifth order Butterworth filter (10 kHz). Data were analysed using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and significance was accepted at p = 0.05.
RESULTS: The energy required to induce muscle failure was significantly lower at muscle temperatures of 17°C to 32°C compared with muscle at core temperature, i.e., 37°C (p < 0.01). During low-energy impacts there were no differences in muscle elasticity between cold and warm muscles (p = 0.18). Differences in elasticity were, however, seen at higher impact energies (p < 0.02).
CONCLUSION: Our findings are of particular clinical relevance, as when muscle temperature drops below 32°C, less energy is required to cause muscle tears. Muscle temperatures of 32°C are reported in ambient conditions, suggesting that it would be beneficial, particularly in colder environments, to ensure that peripheral muscle temperature is raised close to core levels prior to high-velocity exercise. Thus, this work stresses the importance of not only ensuring that the muscle groups are well stretched, but also that all muscle groups are warmed to core temperature in pre-exercise routines.Cite this article: Professor A. H. R. W. Simpson. Increased risk of muscle tears below physiological temperature ranges. Bone Joint Res 2016;5:61-65. doi: 10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000484.