SUMMARY The muscles and tendons of the lower extremity are generally considered the dominant producers of positive and negative work during gait. However, soft-tissue deformations not captured by joint rotations might also dissipate, store and even return substantial energy to the body. A key locomotion event is the collision of the leg with the ground, which deforms soft tissues appreciably in running. Significant deformation might also result from the impulsive ground collision in walking. In a study of normal human walking (N=10; 0.7–2.0 m s–1 speeds), we show indirect evidence for both negative and positive work performed by soft tissue, consistent with a damped elastic collision and rebound. We used the difference between measured joint work and another quantity – the work performed on the body center of mass – to indicate possible work performed by soft tissue. At 1.25 m s–1, we estimated that soft tissue performs approximately 7.5 J of negative work per collision. This constitutes approximately 60% of the total negative collision work and 31% of the total negative work per stride. The amount of soft tissue work during collision increases sharply with speed. Each collision is followed by 4 J of soft tissue rebound that is also not captured by joint work measures. Soft tissue deformation may save muscles the effort of actively dissipating energy, and soft tissue elastic rebound could save up to 14% of the total positive work per stride. Soft tissues not only cushion impacts but also appear to perform substantial work.
Lower extremity amputation not only limits mobility, but also increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis of the intact limb. Dynamic walking models of non-amputees suggest that pushing-off from the trailing limb can reduce collision forces on the leading limb. These collision forces may determine the peak knee external adduction moment (EAM), which has been linked to the development of knee OA in the general population. We therefore hypothesized that greater prosthetic push-off would lead to reduced loading and knee EAM of the intact limb in unilateral transtibial amputees. Seven unilateral transtibial amputees were studied during gait under three prosthetic foot conditions that were intended to vary push-off. Prosthetic foot-ankle push-off work, intact limb knee EAM and ground reaction impulses for both limbs during step-to-step transition were measured. Overall, trailing limb prosthetic push-off work was negatively correlated with leading intact limb 1st peak knee EAM (slope = −0.72 +/− 0.22; p=0.011). Prosthetic push-off work and 1st peak intact knee EAM varied significantly with foot type. The prosthetic foot condition with the least push-off demonstrated the largest knee EAM, which was reduced by 26% with the prosthetic foot producing the most push-off. Trailing prosthetic limb push-off impulse was negatively correlated with leading intact limb loading impulse (slope = −0.34 +/− 0.14; p=.001), which may help explain how prosthetic limb push-off can affect intact limb loading. Prosthetic feet that perform more prosthetic push-off appear to be associated with a reduction in 1st peak intact knee EAM, and their use could potentially reduce the risk and burden of knee osteoarthritis in this population.
The elastic stretch-shortening cycle of the Achilles tendon during walking can reduce the active work demands on the plantarflexor muscles in series. However, this does not explain why or when this ankle work, whether by muscle or tendon, needs to be performed during gait. We therefore employ a simple bipedal walking model to investigate how ankle work and series elasticity impact economical locomotion. Our model shows that ankle elasticity can use passive dynamics to aid push-off late in single support, redirecting the body's center-of-mass (COM) motion upward. An appropriately timed, elastic push-off helps to reduce dissipative collision losses at contralateral heelstrike, and therefore the positive work needed to offset those losses and power steady walking. Thus, the model demonstrates how elastic ankle work can reduce the total energetic demands of walking, including work required from more proximal knee and hip muscles. We found that the key requirement for using ankle elasticity to achieve economical gait is the proper ratio of ankle stiffness to foot length. Optimal combination of these parameters ensures proper timing of elastic energy release prior to contralateral heelstrike, and sufficient energy storage to redirect the COM velocity. In fact, there exist parameter combinations that theoretically yield collision-free walking, thus requiring zero active work, albeit with relatively high ankle torques. Ankle elasticity also allows the hip to power economical walking by contributing indirectly to push-off. Whether walking is powered by the ankle or hip, ankle elasticity may aid walking economy by reducing collision losses.
Lower-limb amputees expend more energy to walk than non-amputees and have an elevated risk of secondary disabilities. Insufficient push-off by the prosthetic foot may be a contributing factor. We aimed to systematically study the effect of prosthetic foot mechanics on gait, to gain insight into fundamental prosthetic design principles. We varied a single parameter in isolation, the energy-storing spring in a prototype prosthetic foot, the Controlled Energy Storage and Return (CESR) foot, and observed the effect on gait. Subjects walked on the CESR foot with three different springs. We performed parallel studies on amputees and on non-amputees wearing prosthetic simulators. In both groups, spring characteristics similarly affected ankle and body center-of-mass (COM) mechanics and metabolic cost. Softer springs led to greater energy storage, energy return and prosthetic limb COM push-off work. But metabolic energy expenditure was lowest with a spring of intermediate stiffness, suggesting biomechanical disadvantages to the softest spring despite its greater push-off. Disadvantages of the softest spring may include excessive heel displacements and COM collision losses. We also observed some differences in joint kinetics between amputees and non-amputees walking on the prototype foot. During prosthetic push-off, amputees exhibited reduced energy transfer from the prosthesis to the COM along with increased hip work, perhaps due to greater energy dissipation at the knee. Nevertheless, the results indicate that spring compliance can contribute to push-off, but with biomechanical trade-offs that limit the degree to which greater push-off might improve walking economy.
IntroductionTibial stress fractures are a common overuse injury resulting from the accumulation of bone microdamage due to repeated loading. Researchers and wearable device developers have sought to understand or predict stress fracture risks, and other injury risks, by monitoring the ground reaction force (GRF, the force between the foot and ground), or GRF correlates (e.g., tibial shock) captured via wearable sensors. Increases in GRF metrics are typically assumed to reflect increases in loading on internal biological structures (e.g., bones). The purpose of this study was to evaluate this assumption for running by testing if increases in GRF metrics were strongly correlated with increases in tibial compression force over a range of speeds and slopes.MethodsTen healthy individuals performed running trials while we collected GRFs and kinematics. We assessed if commonly-used vertical GRF metrics (impact peak, loading rate, active peak, impulse) were strongly correlated with tibial load metrics (peak force, impulse).ResultsOn average, increases in GRF metrics were not strongly correlated with increases in tibial load metrics. For instance, correlating GRF impact peak and loading rate with peak tibial load resulted in r = -0.29±0.37 and r = -0.20±0.35 (inter-subject mean and standard deviation), respectively. We observed high inter-subject variability in correlations, though most coefficients were negligible, weak or moderate. Seventy-six of the 80 subject-specific correlation coefficients computed indicated that higher GRF metrics were not strongly correlated with higher tibial forces.ConclusionsThese results demonstrate that commonly-used GRF metrics can mislead our understanding of loading on internal structures, such as the tibia. Increases in GRF metrics should not be assumed to be an indicator of increases in tibial bone load or overuse injury risk during running. This has important implications for sports, wearable devices, and research on running-related injuries, affecting >50 scientific publications per year from 2015–2017.
Measuring biomechanical work performed by humans and other animals is critical for understanding muscle-tendon function, jointspecific contributions and energy-saving mechanisms during locomotion. Inverse dynamics is often employed to estimate jointlevel contributions, and deformable body estimates can be used to study work performed by the foot. We recently discovered that these commonly used experimental estimates fail to explain whole-body energy changes observed during human walking. By re-analyzing previously published data, we found that about 25% (8 J) of total positive energy changes of/about the body's center-of-mass and >30% of the energy changes during the Push-off phase of walking were not explained by conventional joint-and segment-level work estimates, exposing a gap in our fundamental understanding of work production during gait. Here, we present a novel Energy-Accounting analysis that integrates various empirical measures of work and energy to elucidate the source of unexplained biomechanical work. We discovered that by extending conventional 3 degree-of-freedom (DOF) inverse dynamics (estimating rotational work about joints) to 6DOF (rotational and translational) analysis of the hip, knee, ankle and foot, we could fully explain the missing positive work. This revealed that Push-off work performed about the hip may be >50% greater than conventionally estimated (9.3 versus 6.0 J, P=0.0002, at 1.4 m s −1). Our findings demonstrate that 6DOF analysis (of hipknee-ankle-foot) better captures energy changes of the body than more conventional 3DOF estimates. These findings refine our fundamental understanding of how work is distributed within the body, which has implications for assistive technology, biomechanical simulations and potentially clinical treatment.
In human gait analysis studies, the entire foot is typically modeled as a single rigid-body segment; however, this neglects power generated/absorbed within the foot. Here we show how treating the entire foot as a rigid body can lead to misunderstandings related to (biological and prosthetic) foot function, and distort our understanding of ankle and muscle-tendon dynamics. We overview various (unconventional) inverse dynamics methods for estimating foot power, partitioning ankle vs. foot contributions, and computing combined anklefoot power. We present two case study examples. The first exemplifies how modeling the foot as a single rigid-body segment causes us to overestimate (and overvalue) muscle-tendon power generated about the biological ankle (in this study by up to 77%), and to misestimate (and misinform on) foot contributions; corroborating findings from previous multi-segment foot modeling studies. The second case study involved an individual with transtibial amputation walking on 8 different prosthetic feet. The results exemplify how assuming a rigid foot can skew comparisons between biological and prosthetic limbs, and lead to incorrect conclusions when comparing different prostheses/interventions. Based on analytical derivations, empirical findings and prior literature we recommend against computing conventional ankle power (between shank-foot). Instead, we recommend using an alternative estimate of power generated about the ankle joint complex (between shank-calcaneus) in conjunction with an estimate of foot power (between calcaneus-ground); or using a combined anklefoot power calculation. We conclude that treating the entire foot as a rigid-body segment is often inappropriate and ill-advised. Including foot power in biomechanical gait analysis is necessary to enhance scientific conclusions, clinical evaluations and technology development.
Muscle-tendon units about the ankle joint generate a burst of positive power during the step-to-step transition in human walking, termed ankle push-off, but there is no scientific consensus on its functional role. A central question embodied in the biomechanics literature is: does ankle push-off primarily contribute to leg swing, or to center of mass (COM) acceleration? This question has been debated in various forms for decades. However, it actually presents a false dichotomy, as these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. If we ask either question independently, the answer is the same: yes! (1) Does ankle push-off primarily contribute to leg swing acceleration? Yes. (2) Does ankle push-off primarily contribute to COM acceleration? Yes. Here, we summarize the historical debate, then synthesize the seemingly polarized perspectives and demonstrate that both descriptions are valid. The principal means by which ankle push-off affects COM mechanics is by a localized action that increases the speed and kinetic energy of the trailing push-off limb. Because the limb is included in body COM computations, this localized segmental acceleration also accelerates the COM, and most of the segmental energy change also appears as COM energy change. Interpretation of ankle mechanics should abandon an either/ or contrast of leg swing versus COM acceleration. Instead, ankle push-off should be interpreted in light of both mutually consistent effects. This unified perspective informs our fundamental understanding of the role of ankle push-off, and has important implications for the design of clinical interventions (e.g. prostheses, orthoses) intended to restore locomotor function to individuals with disabilities.
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