Lower extremity joints and muscle groups in the human locomotor system alter mechanical functions to meet task demand

Academic Article

Abstract

  • To facilitate movement through mechanically complex environments, terrestrial animals have evolved locomotor systems capable of flexibly altering internal mechanics to meet external demands. They do this by shifting imposed workloads between joints/muscle groups (central mechanical flexibility) and/or by altering the function of individual joints/muscle groups (local mechanical flexibility). In human locomotion research, central mechanical flexibility is well established and regularly reported. Local mechanical flexibility at major lower extremity joints and muscle groups, however, has received relatively less attention. We used an emerging biomechanical analysis known as functional indexing to test the hypothesis that lower extremity joints and muscle groups within the human locomotor system alter their mechanical function to meet altered locomotor demands. Thirteen healthy adults walked across a range of speeds (0.8, 1.2, 1.6, 2.0 m s-1) and slopes (0 deg, +5 deg, +10 deg) to determine whether hip, knee and ankle joints and their extensors and flexors altered their mechanical function in response to increased speed and slope. As walking speed increased, the knee and its extensors altered their function to behave more like mechanical springs while the ankle and its extensors altered their function to behave more like motors. As slope increased, all three joints and their extensors decreased spring-and damper-like behavior and increased motor-like behavior. Our results indicate that humans-similarly to many other terrestrial animals-utilize local mechanical flexibility to meet the demands of the locomotor task at hand.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kuhman DJ; Hurt CP
  • Volume

  • 222
  • Issue

  • 20