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Simulating the effect of muscle weakness and contracture on neuromuscular control of normal gait in children

journal contribution
posted on 01.03.2018, 00:00 authored by Aaron FoxAaron Fox, C P Carty, L Modenese, L A Barber, G A Lichtwark
Altered neural control of movement and musculoskeletal deficiencies are common in children with spastic cerebral palsy (SCP), with muscle weakness and contracture commonly experienced. Both neural and musculoskeletal deficiencies are likely to contribute to abnormal gait, such as equinus gait (toe-walking), in children with SCP. However, it is not known whether the musculoskeletal deficiencies prevent normal gait or if neural control could be altered to achieve normal gait. This study examined the effect of simulated muscle weakness and contracture of the major plantarflexor/dorsiflexor muscles on the neuromuscular requirements for achieving normal walking gait in children. Initial muscle-driven simulations of walking with normal musculoskeletal properties by typically developing children were undertaken. Additional simulations with altered musculoskeletal properties were then undertaken; with muscle weakness and contracture simulated by reducing the maximum isometric force and tendon slack length, respectively, of selected muscles. Muscle activations and forces required across all simulations were then compared via waveform analysis. Maintenance of normal gait appeared robust to muscle weakness in isolation, with increased activation of weakened muscles the major compensatory strategy. With muscle contracture, reduced activation of the plantarflexors was required across the mid-portion of stance suggesting a greater contribution from passive forces. Increased activation and force during swing was also required from the tibialis anterior to counteract the increased passive forces from the simulated dorsiflexor muscle contracture. Improvements in plantarflexor and dorsiflexor motor function and muscle strength, concomitant with reductions in plantarflexor muscle stiffness may target the deficits associated with SCP that limit normal gait.



Gait and posture




169 - 175




Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2018, Elsevier B.V.