• Is stair descent in the elderly associated with periods of high centre of mass downward accelerations?

      Buckley, John G.; Cooper, G.; Maganaris, C.N.; Reeves, N.D. (2013-02)
      When descending stairs bodyweight becomes supported on a single limb while the forwards-reaching contralateral limb is lowered in order to make contact with the step below. This is associated with lowering of the centre of mass (CoM), which in order to occur in a controlled manner, requires increased ankle and knee joint torque production relative to that in overground walking. We have previously shown that when descending steps or stairs older people operate at a higher proportion of their maximum eccentric capacity and at, or in excess of the maximum passive reference joint range of motion. This suggests they have reduced and/or altered control over their CoM and we hypothesised that this would be associated with alterations in muscle activity patterns and in the CoM vertical acceleration and velocity profiles during both the lowering and landing phases of stair descent. 15 older (mean age 75 years) and 17 young (mean age 25 years) healthy adults descended a 4-step staircase, leading with the right limb on each stair, during which CoM dynamics and electromyographic activity patterns for key lower-limb muscles were assessed. Maximum voluntary eccentric torque generation ability at the knee and ankle was also assessed. Older participants compared to young participants increased muscle co-contraction relative duration at the knee and ankle of the trailing limb so that the limb was stiffened for longer during descent. As a result older participants contacted the step below with a reduced downwards CoM velocity when compared to young participants. Peak downwards and peak upwards CoM acceleration during the descent and landing phases respectively, were also reduced in older adults compared to those in young participants. In contrast, young participants descended quickly onto the step below but arrested their downward CoM velocity sooner following landing; a strategy that was associated with longer relative duration lead-limb plantar flexor activity, increased peak upwards CoM acceleration, and a reduced landing duration. These results suggest that a reduced ability to generate high eccentric torque at the ankle in the forward reaching limb is a major factor for older participants adopting a cautious movement control strategy when descending stairs. The implications of this CoM control strategy on the incidences of falling on stairs are discussed.
    • Walking speed related joint kinetic alterations in trans-tibial amputees: impact of hydraulic 'ankle' damping

      De Asha, Alan R.; Munjal, R.; Kulkarni, J.; Buckley, John G. (2013)
      Passive prosthetic devices are set up to provide optimal function at customary walking speed and thus may function less effectively at other speeds. This partly explains why joint kinetic adaptations become more apparent in lower-limb amputees when walking at speeds other than customary. The present study determined whether a trans-tibial prosthesis incorporating a dynamic-response foot that was attached to the shank via an articulating hydraulic device (hyA-F) lessened speed-related adaptations in joint kinetics compared to when the foot was attached via a rigid, non-articulating attachment (rigF). Eight active unilateral trans-tibial amputees completed walking trials at their customary walking speed, and at speeds they deemed to be slow-comfortable and fast-comfortable whilst using each type of foot attachment. Moments and powers at the distal end of the prosthetic shank and at the intact joints of both limbs were compared between attachment conditions. There was no change in the amount of intact-limb ankle work across speed or attachment conditions. As speed level increased there was an increase on both limbs in the amount of hip and knee joint work done, and increases on the prosthetic side were greater when using the hyA-F. However, because all walking speed levels were higher when using the hyA-F, the intact-limb ankle and combined joints work per meter travelled were significantly lower; particularly so at the customary speed level. This was the case despite the hyA-F dissipating more energy during stance. In addition, the amount of eccentric work done per meter travelled became increased at the residual knee when using the hyA-F, with increases again greatest at customary speed. Findings indicate that a trans-tibial prosthesis incorporating a dynamic-response foot reduced speed-related changes in compensatory intact-limb joint kinetics when the foot was attached via an articulating hydraulic device compared to rigid attachment. As differences between attachment conditions were greatest at customary speed, findings indicate a hydraulic ankle-foot device is most effectual at the speed it is set-up for.