Background.Increased motor variability while performing repetitive tasks has been suggested to decrease the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. However, support for this positive effect is lacking outside of short, simple, highly controlled tasks. It is also currently unknown whether or not existing motor variability metrics are viable for characterising occupational tasks. The purpose of this study was to assess motor variability during a long-cycle simulated occupational task. Using metrics previously validated for short-cycle tasks, this study aimed to determine the extent to which: (1) individuals dif-fered in motor variability with respect to kinematics and/or EMG activation; (2) individual motor variability was consistent across days; and (3) kinematics and EMG motor variability were correlated.
Methods.Following a stringent, three-day training regime, 15 females proved sufficiently proficient to participate. On two occasions, participants performed 36 cycles of an assembly task (combining gross and fine motor skills) at 110 MTM pacing (51 s per cycle). For each cycle, multiple upper arm kinematic and trapezius EMG summary mean and SD variables were calculated; for each variable, the variability across the 36 cycles was assessed. The relative size of variability across individuals, and the consistency of each individual’s motor behaviour across days were assessed using kinematic and EMG vari-ables. The correlation between kinematic and EMG variables was also assessed.
Results.Distinct individual behaviours were observed across days: some participants were clearly more consistent in their motor behaviour than others. Further, a high correlation was found between some kinematic and muscle activation variables.
Discussion. Using previously validated upper arm assessment metrics, we were able to differentiate between individuals performing a long-cycle assembly task based on their degree of motor variability. Given the nature of our study task, we believe the metrics that we found to be successful at identifying individual behaviours could be used for assessing field tasks.
Ninth International Conference on the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (PREMUS), Toronto, June 20-23, 2016