Sports Science

Prolonged Cycling's Effect on Transition Run Mechanics in Triathletes

A period of incoordination and fatigue is commonly associated with the transition run in triathletes, in which running mechanics are thought to be altered. Few studies have examined the changes in ground reaction forces and vertical loading rate during the transition run. Our purpose was to assess the changes that occur in ground reaction forces during a fatigued transition run in triathletes. 13 recreational male triathletes (34 ± 4.2 years) performed an incremental cycling test and a cycle to run transition on separate testing sessions. A 15-camera Vicon motion capture system collecting at 200 Hz and an AMTI force instrumented treadmill collecting at 2000 Hz were used in conjunction with a modified Plug-In Gait marker to collect trajectory and analog data for pre and post-cycling running trials. Ground reaction forces and temporal spatial parameters were assessed during stance of all running trials using Visual 3D software. Peak vertical ground reaction force and step length decreased significantly from pre-cycling to immediate post-cycling measures (p=.003, p<.001), no difference existed for either variable for pre-cycling vs. 10min post-cycling. Instantaneous peak vertical loading rate (IVLR) and step rate increased significantly from pre-cycling to immediate post-cycling measures (p=.05, p<.001), no difference existed for stride rate for pre-cycling vs. 10min post-cycling. IVLR remained significantly increased at the 10 min post-cyling (p=.035). The study findings suggest that fatigue from prolonged cycling can negatively impact triathletes’ ability to attenuate ground reaction forces in subsequent running.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Sports Science

Modeling 3D Ground Reaction Forces During Walking Using Nanocomposite Piezo-Responsive Foam Sensors

This study presents a new technique for acquiring ground reaction forces from novel, nanocomposite piezo-responsive foam (NCPF) sensors. A shoe was fitted with four NCPF sensors located at the heel, arch, ball, and toe positions. Running data was collected simultaneously from both the shoe sensors and from a force-sensing treadmill. A portion (30 randomly selected stance phases) of the treadmill data was used to develop a predictive stochastic model of GRF based on the sensor inputs. The stochastic model was then used to predict GRF for the remaining shoe sensor data, which was then benchmarked against the treadmill data. The results indicated that this model was able to predict forces in the x-axis (anterior-posterior) with 2.38% error, forces in the y-axis (medial-lateral) with 6.01% error, and forces in the z-axis (vertical) with 2.43% error. These novel sensors hold potential to dramatically improve both the ease and expense associated with GRF data, as well as allow unprecedented ability to measure GRF during real world applications outside of the laboratory.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Gait, Mechanical Engineering, Sports Science

Movement and Loading Symmetry Changes when Wearing a Functional Knee Brace Following ACL Reconstruction

Asymmetries in discrete measures following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACL-R) during landing have been reported to be risk factors for secondary ACL injuries. Our purpose was to examine the impact of functional brace wear on kinematic and kinetic inter-limb movement symmetry during landing in ACL-R patients. 20 adolescent athletes (15.8 ± 1.2 years) (7 male, 13 female) 6 months following ACL reconstruction performed 5 trials of a stop-jump task in both a braced (B) and non-braced (NB) condition, with the first landing being analyzed. A custom fit functional knee brace (DJO, Vista, CA) was worn on the ACL reconstructed limb (AL) during the B trials. Mean curves were created for each limb (AL and unaffected limb (UL)) for the vertical (vGRF) and anterior-posterior ground reaction forces (apGRF) and frontal and sagittal knee angles and moments. Coefficients of multiple determination (CMD) between the AL and UL curves were compared between B and NB conditions with students’ t-tests (p≤0.05). No significant differences existed for movement and loading symmetry between B and NB conditions among all subjects. Secondary analysis revealed significant differences in apGRF (p=0.014), vGRF (p=0.011) and sagittal knee angles (p=0.003) in subjects with improved sagittal knee angle symmetry in the B condition. The data show that brace wear improves loading symmetry in adolescent patients that also exhibit improved sagittal knee angle symmetry while braced 6 months following ACL-R. Identifying factors that affect inter-limb movement and loading response to brace wear could assist in determining each patient’s need for a brace.

Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science

Predictors of patellofemoral joint stress: an examination of patellofemoral joint morphology

INTRODUCTION: Patellofemoral pain (PFP) is a common condition seen in orthopedic practice, accounting for approximately 25-40% of all knee injuries [1]. A commonly cited hypothesis as to the cause of PFP is elevated patellofemoral joint (PFJ) stress [2] secondary to abnormal PFJ structure. Previous studies have shown that persons with PFP exhibit altered patella position [3], abnormal femoral morphology [4], and decreased patella cartilage thickness [5] when compared to healthy individuals. However, the influence of the abnormal morphology on PFJ stress is unknown. METHODS: Nineteen subjects (10 PFP and 9 pain-free controls) were recruited for this study. Each subject completed 2 phases of data collection: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assessment and biomechanical testing. The measurement of morphological variables (patella height (Insall-Salvati ratio or ISR), lateral trochlear inclination angle (LTI), and patella cartilage thickness). For the biomechanical testing, kinematic, kinetic, and electromyographic were obtained. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Pearson correlation coefficients revealed that only patella height (r=0.48, p=0.018) and patella cartilage thickness (r=-0.58, p=0.005) were significantly correlated with peak hydrostatic pressure (Table 1). Results of the stepwise regression analysis revealed that patella cartilage thickness was the single best predictor of peak hydrostatic pressure, followed by patella height. Together, these 2 variables explained 50% of the variance in peak PFJ stress. The results of the current study support the premise that PFJ stress is associated with PFJ morphology. Patella height was the best predictor of PFJ stress with greater degrees of patella height being correlated with greater stress. This is logical given that a higher positioned patella articulates with the more shallow portion of the trochlear groove, thus decreasing PFJ contact area [6]. The finding that patella cartilage thickness was negatively correlated with PFJ stress is in agreement with the results of Li et al. [7], who demonstrated that a reduction of cartilage thickness causes increase cartilage stress. Furthermore, our findings revealed that 50% of the variance in PFJ stress could be explained by morphological factors. CONCLUSIONS: Identifying the underlying factors that contribute to elevated PFJ stress is an important step in developing effective interventions for persons with PFP. Although abnormal structure may not be correctable through conservative measures, it is important to recognize abnormal structure may play a role in contributing to pain and pathology.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science


Introduction and Objectives: Traditional motion analysis provides limited insight into muscle and tendon forces during movement. This study used B-mode ultrasound, in combination with measured joint angles and scaled musculoskeletal models, to provide subject-specific estimates of in vivo Achilles tendon (AT) force. Previous studies have used ultrasound images, tracked in 3D space, to estimate AT strains during walking, running, and jumping [1,2]. Our approach extends this work in one novel way. Specifically, we characterized AT stiffness on a subject-specific basis by recording subjects’ ankle moments and AT strains during a series of isometric tests. We then used these data to estimate AT force during movement from in vivo measurements of tendon strain. To demonstrate this approach, we report AT forces measured during cycling. Cycling offers a unique paradigm for studying AT mechanics. First, because the crank trajectory is constrained, joint angles and muscle-tendon unit (MTU) lengths of the gastrocnemius (MG, LG) and soleus (SOL) are also constrained. By varying crank load, subjects’ ankle moments can be altered without imposing changes in MTU lengths. For this study, 10 competitive cyclists were tested at 4 different crank loads while pedaling at 80 rpm. Based on published EMG recordings (e.g., [3]) and on in vivo tendon force buckle data from one subject [4], we hypothesized that the cyclists’ AT forces would increase systematically with crank load. Methods: We coupled B-mode ultrasound with motion capture, EMG, and pedal forces to estimate in vivo AT forces non-invasively during cycling and during a series of isometric ankle plantarflexion tests. Marker trajectories were tracked using an optical motion capture system. Joint angles and MTU lengths were calculated based on scaled musculoskeletal models [5] using OpenSim [6]. A 50 mm linear-array B-mode ultrasound probe was secured over the distal muscle-tendon junction (MTJ) of the MG and was tracked using rigid-body clusters of LEDs. AT lengths were calculated as the distance from a calcaneus marker to the 3D coordinates of the MG MTJ. Subject-specific AT force-strain curves were obtained from isometric tests using ultrasound to track the MTJ, markers to track both the ultrasound probe and the AT insertion, and a strain gauge to measure the net ankle torques generated by each of the subjects at ankle angles of -10° dorsiflexion, 0°, +10° plantarflexion, and +20° plantarflexion. AT strain during cycling was converted to AT force using each subject’s force-strain relation. Subject-specific tendon slack lengths were calculated as the mean tendon length at 310° over all pedal cycles, based on examination of the AT length changes and on published data showing that this position in the pedal cycle precedes tendon loading across multiple pedalling conditions [4]. Results: Peak AT forces during cycling ranged from 1320 to 2160 N ± 400 N (mean± SD) and increased systematically with load (p<0.001; Fig. 1A/B). At the highest load, the peak AT forces represented, on average, 50 to 70 % of the combined MG, LG, and SOL muscles’ maximum isometric force-generating capacity, as estimated from the muscles’ scaled volumes [7], the muscles’ scaled optimal fiber lengths [5], and a specific tension of 20-30 N/cm2. Peak AT forces occurred midway through the pedaling downstroke, at about 80°, which is consistent with the AT forces directly measured from one subject [4] and with patterns of EMG during cycling [3]. Peak AT strains during cycling were uncoupled from the MG MTU strains and ranged from 3 to 5 % across the different loads examined, measured at the MG MTJ. Conclusion: Our results are consistent with published data from a single subject in which AT force was measured using an implanted tendon buckle [8]; however, our results were obtained non-invasively using ultrasound and motion capture. These methods substantially augment the experimental tools available to study muscle-tendon dynamics during movement. References: [1]Lichtwark and Wilson, 2005, J Exp Biol, 208(24), 4715-4725. [2]Lichtwark et al., 2007, J Biomech, 40(1), 157-164. [3]Wakeling and Horn, 2009, J Neurophysiol, 101(2), 843-854. [4]Gregor et al., 1987, Int J Sports Med, 8(S1), S9-S14. [5]Arnold et al., 2010, Ann Biomed Eng, 38(2), 269-279. [6]Delp et al., 2007, IEEE Trans Bio Med Eng, 54(11), 1940-50. [7]Handsfield et al., 2014, J Biomech, 47(3),631-638. [8]Gregor et al. 1991, J Biomech, 24(5), 287-297
Listed In: Biomechanics, Sports Science

Acute Effects of Lateral Ankle Sprains on Range of Motion, Single Limb Balance, and Self-Reported Function

One in three individuals who suffer a lateral ankle sprain (LAS) subsequently develop chronic ankle instability. However, our inability to properly treat acute LAS is not surprising given our limited understanding of post-LAS consequences. 12 patients (21.6±2.9yrs; 172.9±13.1cm; 79.1±21.4kg) with an acute LAS participated. All participants were evaluated for dorsiflexion range of motion (DFROM), time-to-boundary (TTB) in single limb balance (SLB), and self-reported function (SRF) at 1-week, 2-weeks, 4-weeks, 6-weeks, and 8-weeks post injury. Both the involved and uninvolved limbs were measured during the patients first test session. DFROM was assessed using the weight-bearing lunge test and all participants performed 3, 10s of single limb stance with eyes open on a force plate to measure their single limb balance. SRF was measured using the Foot and Ankle Ability Measure (FAAM) and FAAM-Sport (FAAM-S). Post injury time points were compared to a control condition using multivariate ANOVAs (α=0.05). Relative to the control condition, FAAM and FAAM-S were significantly lower at 1-week and 2-weeks post injury. The FAAM-S was also significantly lower score compare to control condition at 4-weeks post-injury. Both FAAM and FAAM-S were not significant different at 6-weeks post-injury. Post-injury TTB measures and DFROM were not significantly different from the control condition. Non-significant declines in DFROM and TTB were observed as in this sample of acute LAS and appear to present with unique recovery patterns. Different recovery patterns among the tested outcomes indicate the need for further research with a larger cohort and for a longer post-injury duration.

Listed In: Biomechanics, Physical Therapy, Posturography, Sports Science

A preliminary study on quality of knee strength measurements by means of Hand Held Dynamometer and Optoelectronic System

Strength measurements are popular in the clinical practice to evaluate the health status of patients and quantify the outcome of training programs. Currently a common method to measure strength is based on Hand Held Dynamometers (HHD) which is operator-dependent. Some studies were conducted on repeatability of strength measurements but they were limited to the statistical analysis of repeated measurements of force. In this work, the authors developed a methodology to study the quality of knee flexion/extension strength measurements by measuring the effective HHD position and orientation with respect to the patient. HHD positioning attitude was measured by means of an Optoelectronic System for which a marker protocol was defined ad-hoc. The approach allowed to assess quality of measurements and operator’s ability by means of quantitative indices. The protocol permitted the evaluation of: angles of HHD application, angular range of motion of the knee and range of motion of the HHD. RMSE parameters allowed to quantify the inaccuracy associated to the selected indices. Results showed that the operator was not able to keep the subject’s limb completely still. The force exerted by the subject was higher in knee extension and the knee range of motion was higher than expected, however the operator had more difficulties in holding the HHD in knee flexion trials. This work showed that HHD positioning should be as accurate as possible, as it plays an important role for the strength evaluation. Moreover, the operator should be properly trained and should be strong enough to counteract the force of the subject.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Physical Therapy, Sports Science

Effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Gait Kinetics in Individuals with Experimentally Induced Knee Joint Pain

Background: Knee joint pain (KJP) independently alters motor function and gait mechanics, and these alterations may accelerate chronic knee joint disease. While TENS restores motor function deficits, it is unclear whether TENS restores compensatory gait mechanics. The purpose was to examine the effects of KJP on lower-extremity joint moments, and the effects of TENS on the aforementioned variables. We hypothesized that KJP will result in altered gait patterns, and TENS will help restore these mechanical alterations. Methods: We randomly selected 15 subjects for the TENS group, after which subjects were matched for the placebo group. Subjects underwent 3 sessions (hypertonic, isotonic, control). A 20-gauge flexible catheter was inserted into the right infrapatellar fat pad, and an infusion pump infused a saline of 0.154 mL•min¯¹ for 50 min (total = 7.7 mL). A TENS protocol was set at a biphasic mode with 120 µs and 180 Hz for 20 min. To blind placebo treatment, subjects in the placebo group was told that an electrical stimulation had been set to sub-sensory level. High-speed video (240 Hz) and an instrumented treadmill (1200 Hz) were used for gait analysis. Functional analysis of variance were used to evaluate differences between groups over time for joint moments. The mean curve with 95% CIs is represented by polynomial functions, showing us the entire stance, rather than identifying discrete peak points. If 95% CIs did not cross zero, significant difference existed (P < 0.05). Discussion: KJP independently increase internal knee varus moments, which were consistent with previous finding using patients with osteoarthritic knee pain. These compensatory gait patterns may be a result of a pain-avoidance motor deficits strategies. Since observed patterns can create altered mechanical and biological stress patterns on articular surface, it may increase the risk of degenerative knee disease. However, attempting to reduce perceived pain and increase neuron activation through TENS can help overcome deficits in knee and hip joint moments.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Sports Science

Comparison of accelerometry stride time calculation methods

The purpose of this study was to investigate how a newly proposed method of stride time calculation, utilising data filtered at 2 Hz, compared to previous methods. Tibial accelerometry data for 6 participants completing half marathon running training were collected. One run was selected for each participant at random, from which five consecutive running strides were ascertained. Four calculation methods were employed to derive each stride time and results were compared. No significant difference was found between methods (p=1.00). The absolute difference in stride time, when comparing the proposed method to previous methods, ranged from 0.000 seconds to 0.039 seconds. Filtered data could offer a simplified technique for stride time output during running gait analysis, particularly when applied during automated data processing for large data sets.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Sports Science

Marathon Stride Rate Dynamics: A Case Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate stride rate (SR) dynamics of a recreational runner participating in his debut marathon. Tibial accelerometry data obtained during a half marathon (R1) and marathon (R2) were utilised. SR data were extracted utilising novel computational methods and descriptive statistics were utilised for analysis of R2, and comparison of the first half of the marathon (R2half) to R1. Results indicate that the participant employed comparable SR strategy in R1 and R2half. For R2 a combined decreasing trend in SR and increased variance in SR from 30 km (R2 =0.0238) was observed. Results indicate that the participant had the ability to maintain SR strategy for the first half of the marathon, however as fatigue onset occurred this ability decreased. Running strategies on SR during fatigue may be of future use to recreational runners.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Sports Science