The present study sought to investigate the role of EMG activity during passive static stretch. EMG and passive resistance were measured during static stretching of human skeletal muscle in eight neurologically intact control subjects and six spinal cord-injured (SCI) subjects with complete motor loss. Resistance to stretch offered by the hamstring muscles during passive knee extension was defined as passive torque (Nm). The knee was passively extended at 5 degrees/s to a predetermined final position, where it remained stationary for 90 s (static phase) while force and integrated EMG of the hamstring muscle were recorded. EMG was sampled for frequency domain analysis in a second stretch maneuver in five control and three SCI subjects. There was a decline in passive torque in the 90-s static phase for both control and SCI subjects, P < 0.05. Although peak passive torque was greater in control subjects, P < 0.05, there was no difference in time-dependent passive torque response between control (33%) and SCI (38%) subjects. Initial and final 5-s IEMG ranged from 1.8 to 3.4 microV.s and did not change during a stretch or differ between control and SCI subjects. Frequency domain analysis yielded similar results in both groups, with an equal energy distribution in all harmonics, indicative of 'white noise'. The present data demonstrate that no measurable EMG activity was detected in either group during the static stretch maneuver. Therefore, the decline in resistance to static stretch was a viscoelastic stress relaxation response.
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