Mathematical Models of Localized Muscle Fatigue: Sensitivity Analysis and Assessment of Two Occupationally-Relevant Models

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Muscle fatigue models (MFM) have broad potential application if they can accurately predict muscle capacity and/or endurance time during the execution of diverse tasks. As an initial step toward facilitating improved MFMs, we assessed the sensitivity of selected existing models to their inherent parameters, specifically that model the fatigue and recovery processes, and the accuracy of model predictions. These evaluations were completed for both prolonged and intermittent isometric contractions, and were based on model predictions of endurance times. Based on a recent review of the literature, four MFMs were initially chosen, from which a preliminary assessment led to two of these being considered for more comprehensive evaluation. Both models had a higher sensitivity to their fatigue parameter. Predictions of both models were also more sensitive to the alteration of their parameters in conditions involving lower to moderate levels of effort, though such conditions may be of most practical, contemporary interest or relevance. Although both models yielded accurate predictions of endurance times during prolonged contractions, their predictive ability was inferior for more complex (intermittent) conditions. When optimizing model parameters for different loading conditions, the recovery parameter showed considerably larger variability, which might be related to the inability of these MFMs in simulating the recovery process under different loading conditions. It is argued that such models may benefit in future work from improving their representation of recovery process, particularly how this process differs across loading conditions.