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Hum Mov Sci. 2004 Apr;22(6):597-610.

Comparison of kinematic and kinetic methods for computing the vertical motion of the body center of mass during walking.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2125, USA.


The vertical excursion of the body center of mass (BCOM) was calculated using three different techniques commonly used by motion analysis laboratories. The sacral marker method involved estimating vertical BCOM motion by tracking the position of a reflective marker that was placed on the sacrum of subjects as they walked. The body segmental analysis technique determined the vertical motion of the BCOM from a weighted average of the vertical positions of the centers of mass of individual body segments for each frame of kinematic data acquired during the data trial. Anthropomorphic data from standard tables were used to determine the mass fractions and the locations of the centers of mass of each body segment. The third technique involved calculating BCOM vertical motion through double integration of force platform data. Data was acquired from 10 able-bodied, adult research subjects--5 males and 5 females--walking at speeds of 0.8, 1.2, 1.6, and 2.0 m/s. A repeated measures ANOVA indicated that at the slowest walking speed the vertical excursions calculated by all three techniques were similar, but at faster speeds the sacral marker significantly (p < 0.001) overestimated the vertical excursion of the BCOM compared with the other two methods. The body segmental analysis and force platform techniques were in agreement at all walking speeds. Discrepancies between the sacral marker method and the other two techniques were explained using a simple model; the reciprocal configuration of the legs during double support phase significantly raises the position of the BCOM within the trunk at longer step lengths, corresponding to faster walking speeds. The sacral marker method may provide a reasonable approximation of vertical BCOM motion at slow and freely selected speeds of able-bodied walking. However, the body segmental analysis or force platform techniques will probably yield better estimates at faster walking speeds or in persons with gait pathologies.

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