Critical Appraisal and Hazards of Surface Electromyography Data Acquisition in Sport and Exercise


Jan Pieter Clarys 1 , * , Aldo Scafoglieri 1 , Jonathan Tresignie 1 , Thomas Reilly 2 , Peter Van Roy 1

1 Department of Experimental Anatomy (EXAN-LK), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

2 Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES), Liverpool John Moores University, UK

How to Cite: Pieter Clarys J, Scafoglieri A, Tresignie J, Reilly T, Van Roy P. Critical Appraisal and Hazards of Surface Electromyography Data Acquisition in Sport and Exercise, Asian J Sports Med. Online ahead of Print ; 1(2):34868. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.34868.


Asian Journal of Sports Medicine: 1 (2); 69-80
Published Online: May 31, 2010
Article Type: Review Article
Received: March 29, 2010
Accepted: May 16, 2010


The aim of this critical appraisal and hazards of surface electromyography (SEMG) is to enhance the data acquisition quality in voluntary but complex movements, sport and exercise in particular. The methodological and technical registration strategies deal with telemetry and online data acquisition, the placement of the detection electrodes and the choice of the most adequate normalization mode.

Findings compared with the literature suggest detection quality differences between registration methods and between water and air data acquisition allowing for output differences up to 30% between registration methods and up to 25% decrease in water, considering identical measures in air and in water. Various hazards deal with erroneous choices of muscles or electrode placement and the continuous confusion created by static normalization for dynamic motion. Peak dynamic intensities ranged from 111% (in archery) to 283% (in giant slalom) of a static 100% reference. In addition, the linear relationship between integrated EMG (IEMG) as a reference for muscle intensity and muscle force is not likely to exist in dynamic conditions since it is muscle joint angle and fatigue dependent. Contrary to expectations, the literature shows 30% of non linear relations in isometric conditions also.

SEMG in sport and exercise is highly variable and different from clinical (e.g. neurological) EMG. Choices of electrodes, registration methods, muscles, joint angles and normalization techniques may lead to confusing and erroneous or incomparable results.

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