Influence of sex on the age‐related adaptations of neuromuscular function and motor unit properties in elite masters athletes

Piasecki, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-9758-6295, Inns, T.B., Bass, J.J., Scott, R., Stashuk, D.W., Phillips, B.E., Atherton, P.J. and Piasecki, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-7804-4631, 2020. Influence of sex on the age‐related adaptations of neuromuscular function and motor unit properties in elite masters athletes. The Journal of Physiology. ISSN 0022-3751

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Abstract

Motor unit (MU) remodelling acts to minimise loss of muscle fibres following denervation in older age, which may be more successful in masters athletes. Evidence suggests performance and neuromuscular function decline with age in this population, although the majority of studies have focused on males, with little available data on female athletes. Functional assessments of strength, balance and motor control were performed in 30 masters athletes (16 male) aged 44–83 years. Intramuscular needle electrodes were used to sample individual motor unit potentials (MUPs) and near‐fibre MUPs in the tibialis anterior (TA) during isometric contractions at 25% maximum voluntary contraction, and used to determine discharge characteristics (firing rate, variability) and biomarkers of peripheral MU remodelling (MUP size, complexity, stability). Multilevel mixed‐effects linear regression models examined effects of age and sex. All aspects of neuromuscular function deteriorated with age (P < 0.05) with no age × sex interactions, although males were stronger (P < 0.001). Indicators of MU remodelling also progressively increased with age to a similar extent in both sexes (P < 0.05), whilst MU firing rate progressively decreased with age in females (p = 0.029), with a non‐significant increase in males (p = 0.092). Masters athletes exhibit age‐related declines in neuromuscular function that are largely equal across males and females. Notably, they also display features of MU remodelling with advancing age, probably acting to reduce muscle fibre loss. The age trajectory of MU firing rate assessed at a single contraction level differed between sexes, which may reflect a greater tendency for females to develop a slower muscle phenotype.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: The Journal of Physiology
Creators: Piasecki, J., Inns, T.B., Bass, J.J., Scott, R., Stashuk, D.W., Phillips, B.E., Atherton, P.J. and Piasecki, M.
Publisher: Wiley
Date: 2 October 2020
ISSN: 0022-3751
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1113/jp280679DOI
1372227Other
Rights: © 2020 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Physiological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 06 Oct 2020 11:06
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2020 16:45
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/41172

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