Firefighters muscular recovery after a heavy work bout in the heat


Occasionally firefighters need to perform very heavy bouts of work, such as smoke diving or clearing an accident site, which induce significant muscle fatigue. The time span for muscular recovery from such heavy work is not known. The purpose of this study was to evaluate firefighters' force-, neural-, metabolic-, and structural-related recovery after task-specific heavy work in the heat. Fifteen healthy firefighters (14 males and 1 female) performed a 20-min heavy work bout that simulated smoke diving and the clearance of an accident site at 35 °C. After the work, muscular recovery was evaluated by wrist flexion maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), average electromyography during MVC and during 10%MVC, rate of force production, motor response and stretch reflex responses, muscle oxygen consumption and oxygenation level, and wrist flexor muscle pennation angle. Recovery was followed for 4 h. Each of the 12 measured parameters changed significantly (p < 0.05) from those at baseline during the follow-up. Muscle oxygen consumption and the wrist flexor pennation angle remained elevated throughout the follow-up (oxygen consumption baseline, 12.9 ± 1.7 mL O2˙min-1˙(100 g)-1; 4-h value, 17.5 ± 1.6 mL O2˙min-1˙(100 g)-1; p < 0.05 and pennation angle baseline, 15.7 ± 0.8°; 4-h value, 17.8 ± 0.8°; p < 0.05). Muscle reoxygenation rate was elevated for up to 2 h (baseline, 2.3 ± 0.4 $μ$mol˙L-1˙min-1; 2-h value, 3.4 ± 0.4 $μ$mol˙L-1˙min-1; p < 0.05). The other 9 parameters recovered (were no longer significantly different from baseline) after 20 to 60 min. We concluded that the recovery order in main components of muscle function from fastest to slowest was force, neural, metabolic, and structural.

Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism