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Background/Aims Muscle maximum voluntary force declines at skin temperature <20°C, attributed to cold muscle, however large muscle deep fibres remain at >20°C. Large muscle maximum voluntary force decline is comparable to that in small superficial muscle where muscle temperature remains close to skin temperature. Therefore, factors in addition to temperature may contribute to large muscle maximum voluntary force decline. This study compares the effects of foot and/or shank skin temperature on dorsiflexion and plantarflexion maximum voluntary force with the hypotheses that: dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force>plantarflexion maximum voluntary force decline at lower skin temperature; and, plantarflexion and dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force will decline at lower shank skin temperature independent of foot skin temperature. Methods A total of 24 adults (15 females, 9 males, 29 ± 11.8 years, 170.1 ± 8.0 cm, 66.9 ± 9.3 kg [mean ± standard deviation]) gave informed consent to participate on three visits – cooling/warming of: foot only; foot and shank; and shank only. Foot and/or shank temperature was adjusted using Cryocuff™ sleeves filled with ~45°C or ~4°C water. Temperature, taken before each maximum voluntary force set, was monitored through thermocouples placed on the limb. Plantarflexion and dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force were measured with a KinCom isokinetic dynamometer, with subjects seated on a plinth with knee fully extended and neutral ankle. A general mixed model was used to evaluate the effects of skin temperature on maximum voluntary force. Fixed effects were skin temperature and condition, with subject as a random effect. The skin temperature*condition interaction was also modelled. P-values were obtained by likelihood ratio tests. Results Foot skin temperature <18.5°C resulted in a 10% (χ2(1)=5.479, P=0.019) dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force decline, with a skin temperature*condition interaction (χ2(2)=11.031, P=0.004), this decline was 12% (χ2(1)=13.18, P=0.0003) in foot only and 8% (χ2(1)=4.675, P=0.031) in foot and shank. Leg skin temperature did not affect (χ2(1)=2.849, P=0.091) dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force. Plantarflexion maximum voluntary force did not change with foot skin temperature (χ2(1)=0.04, P=0.841) or leg skin temperature (χ2(1)=0.082, P=0.929). Conclusions Dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force declines at lower foot skin temperature independently of shank skin temperature, whereas plantarflexion maximum voluntary force is unaffected by skin temperature, possibly because in this protocol the shank was insufficiently cooled. Therefore factors other than direct muscle cooling must contribute to dorsiflexion maximum voluntary force decline. One theory is a rightward shift in the force-length relationship, due to stiffer tendon, could result in dorsiflexions operating in the descending limb of the force-length relationship. This warrants further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation


Mark Allen Group

Publication Date





13 - 13