Alterations of Neuromuscular Function after the World’s Most Challenging Mountain Ultra-Marathon

We investigated the physiological consequences of the most challenging mountain ultra-marathon (MUM) in the world: a 330-km trail run with 24000 m of positive and negative elevation change. Neuromuscular fatigue (NMF) was assessed before (Pre-), during (Mid-) and after (Post-) the MUM in experienced ultra-marathon runners (n = 15; finish time = 122.43 hours ±17.21 hours) and in Pre- and Post- in a control group with a similar level of sleep deprivation (n = 8). Blood markers of muscle inflammation and damage were analyzed at Pre- and Post-. Mean ± SD maximal voluntary contraction force declined significantly at Mid- (−13±17% and −10±16%, P<0.05 for knee extensor, KE, and plantar flexor muscles, PF, respectively), and further decreased at Post- (−24±13% and −26±19%, P<0.01) with alteration of the central activation ratio (−24±24% and −28±34% between Pre- and Post-, P<0.05) in runners whereas these parameters did not change in the control group. Peripheral NMF markers such as 100 Hz doublet (KE: −18±18% and PF: −20±15%, P<0.01) and peak twitch (KE: −33±12%, P<0.001 and PF: −19±14%, P<0.01) were also altered in runners but not in controls. Post-MUM blood concentrations of creatine kinase (3719±3045 Ul·1), lactate dehydrogenase (1145±511 UI·L−1), C-Reactive Protein (13.1±7.5 mg·L−1) and myoglobin (449.3±338.2 µg·L−1) were higher (P<0.001) than at Pre- in runners but not in controls. Our findings revealed less neuromuscular fatigue, muscle damage and inflammation than in shorter MUMs. In conclusion, paradoxically, such extreme exercise seems to induce a relative muscle preservation process due likely to a protective anticipatory pacing strategy during the first half of MUM and sleep deprivation in the second half.

Citation: Saugy J, Place N, Millet GY, Degache F, Schena F, et al. (2013) Alterations of Neuromuscular Function after the World’s Most Challenging Mountain Ultra-Marathon. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65596. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065596

Editor: François Hug, The University of Queensland, Australia
Received: January 15, 2013; Accepted: April 29, 2013; Published: June 26, 2013
Copyright: © 2013 Saugy et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors have no funding or support to report.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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