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J Physiol. 1995 Oct 1;488 ( Pt 1):231-41.

Detection of movements imposed on human hip, knee, ankle and toe joints.

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Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


1. The angular displacements necessary for 70% correct detection were determined in normal subjects at the hip, knee and ankle joints, and the interphalangeal joint of the big toe. Angular velocities between 0.1 and 50 deg s-1 were tested. The hip and knee joints were tested in slight flexion and the ankle and toe joints were tested in the mid-range of the normal excursion. The joints were carefully supported for testing and the muscles acting at the joints were relaxed. 2. When detection thresholds and velocities were assessed in terms of angular displacements and angular velocities, proprioceptive performances at the hip, knee and ankle joints were superior to that at the toe joint. 3. When detection levels and displacement velocities were expressed in terms of linear displacements and velocities at the tip of the extended toe for all four joints, instead of in angular terms, the ankle gave the best performance and the hip and knee the worst. 4. The detection level and velocity data were expressed also in terms of proportional changes in the fascicle lengths of muscles operating these joints. Analysis in these terms showed that performance was similar at the hip, knee and ankle joints, but that performance for the toe was much poorer than for the other joints. 5. These results for the hip, knee and ankle are similar to those previously measured for the elbow and distal interphlangeal joint of the finger, and are consistent with the theory that muscle fascicle length is the variable of significance to the central nervous system. However, the proprioceptive performance at the big toe is notably poorer than all other joints studied and analysed in terms of this variable.

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