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J Biomech. 2008 Aug 7;41(11):2362-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.05.030. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

Importance of preswing rectus femoris activity in stiff-knee gait.

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Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Clark Center, Room S-322, Mail Code 5450, 318 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA 94305-5450, USA.


Stiff-knee gait is characterized by diminished and delayed knee flexion during swing. Rectus femoris transfer surgery, a common treatment for stiff-knee gait, is often recommended when a patient exhibits prolonged activity of the rectus femoris muscle during swing. Treatment outcomes are inconsistent, in part, due to limited understanding of the biomechanical factors contributing to stiff-knee gait. This study used a combination of gait analysis and dynamic simulation to examine how activity of the rectus femoris during swing, and prior to swing, contribute to knee flexion. A group of muscle-actuated dynamic simulations was created that accurately reproduced the gait dynamics of ten subjects with stiff-knee gait. These simulations were used to examine the effects of rectus femoris activity on knee motion by eliminating rectus femoris activity during preswing and separately during early swing. The increase in peak knee flexion by eliminating rectus femoris activity during preswing (7.5+/-3.1 degrees ) was significantly greater on average (paired t-test, p=0.035) than during early swing (4.7+/-3.6 degrees ). These results suggest that preswing rectus femoris activity is at least as influential as early swing activity in limiting the knee flexion of persons with stiff-knee gait. In evaluating rectus femoris activity for treatment of stiff-knee gait, preswing as well as early swing activity should be examined.

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