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J Biomech Eng. 2007 Aug;129(4):594-602.

Changes in muscle activity in response to different impact forces affect soft tissue compartment mechanical properties.

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Division of Biomechanical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 219 Durand Bldg., 496 Lomita Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4038, USA.


Electromyographic (EMG) activity is associated with several tasks prior to landing in walking and running including positioning the leg, developing joint stiffness and possibly control of soft tissue compartment vibrations. The concept of muscle tuning suggests one reason for changes in muscle activity pattern in response to small changes in impact conditions, if the frequency content of the impact is close to the natural frequency of the soft tissue compartments, is to minimize the magnitude of soft tissue compartment vibrations. The mechanical properties of the soft tissue compartments depend in part on muscle activations and thus it was hypothesized that changes in the muscle activation pattern associated with different impact conditions would result in a change in the acceleration transmissibility to the soft tissue compartments. A pendulum apparatus was used to systematically administer impacts to the heel of shod male participants. Wall reaction forces, EMG of selected leg muscles, soft tissue compartment and shoe heel cup accelerations were quantified for two different impact conditions. The transmissibility of the impact acceleration to the soft tissue compartments was determined for each subject/soft tissue compartment/shoe combination. For this controlled impact situation it was shown that changes in the damping properties of the soft tissue compartments were related to changes in the EMG intensity and/or mean frequency of related muscles in response to a change in the impact interface conditions. These results provide support for the muscle tuning idea--that one reason for the changes in muscle activity in response to small changes in the impact conditions may be to minimize vibrations of the soft tissue compartments that are initiated at heel-strike.

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