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Muscle Activity in Pilots With and Without Pressure Breathing During Acceleration

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Fernandes L, Linder J, Krock LP, Balldin UI, Harms-Ringdahl K. Muscle activity in pilots with and without pressure breathing during acceleration. Aviat Space Environ Med 2003; 74:626–32.

Background: Fighter pilots are frequently exposed to high acceleration (+Gz) forces during sorties. To counter these forces the pilots wear anti-G ensembles, use positive pressure breathing for G protection (PBG), and perform anti-G straining maneuvers (AGSMs). The purpose of this study was to analyze the muscle activity during sustained high G when no positive pressure breathing was used (control) compared with that during the use of PBG. Methods: Seven Swedish Air Force fighter pilots volunteered to be exposed to gradual and rapid onset runs to +9 Gz with and without PBG in a human centrifuge. Surface electromyography was recorded from the intercostals, rectus abdominis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, and gastrocnemius lateralis. Measured variables included mean muscle activity, relative time with high muscle activity levels, and individual activation preferences. Results: G duration tolerance was significantly longer (p = 0.028) when PBG was used (57 s) compared with control (32 s) during rapid onset runs. The vastus lateralis and the gastrocnemius lateralis generated activity > 50% of a reference contraction for a longer relative time during control (5.8% and 33.6%, respectively) than during PBG (0.3% and 12.7%, respectively). Cumulative muscle activity during acceleration was compared between trials and indicated that some pilots preferred contracting their leg muscles and others their abdominal muscles. Conclusion: G duration tolerance time increased when PBG was used during rapid onset sustained exposures. Less relative time with high muscle activity was seen during the use of PBG in two groups of leg muscles. The pilots seemed to have individual muscle activation sequence preferences while performing the AGSMs.

Keywords: Valsalva maneuver; acceleration; electromyography; muscle contraction; positive-pressure respiration

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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