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Measurement of fibre pennation using ultrasound in the human quadriceps in vivo.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Rayne Institute, University College and Middlesex School of Medicine, London, UK.


Real-time ultrasound scanning was used to measure the angles of fibre pennation of vastus lateralis (VL) and vastus intermedius (VI) of the human quadriceps (n = 12) in vivo. The maximum isometric force and cross-sectional area of the quadriceps were also measured. With the knee at right-angles the mean fibre angles for VL and VI respectively were 0.133 (0.021) rad [7.6 degrees (1.2 degrees)] and 0.143 (0.028) rad [8.2 degrees (1.6 degrees)] [mean (SD)], which is within the range of angles measured on cadavers. The mean angle decreased in going from the contracted [VL, 0.244 rad (14 degrees); VI, 0.279 rad (16 degrees)] to the stretched [VL, 0.105 rad (6 degrees); VI, 0.122 rad (7 degrees)] position. There was a significant positive correlation between fibre angle and muscle cross-sectional area but no relationship between fibre angle and force per cross-sectional area. No increase in fibre angle was detected after 3 months strength training. We conclude that ultrasound can be used to measure pennation angles of superficial muscle groups but we could not demonstrate a relationship between pennation and force-generating capacity.

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