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J Biomech. 1996 Dec;29(12):1523-9.

Dominant role of interface over knee angle for cushioning impact loading and regulating initial leg stiffness.

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School of Human Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


For in vivo impact loadings administered under controlled initial conditions, it was hypothesized that larger initial knee angles (IKA) and softer impacting interfaces would reduce impact loading and initial leg stiffness. A human pendulum was used to deliver controlled impacts to the right foot of 21 subjects for three IKA (0, 20 and 40 degrees) and three interfaces (barefoot, soft and hard EVA foams). The external impact force and the shock experienced by the subjects' shank were measured simultaneously with a wall mounted force platform and a skin mounted accelerometer, respectively. Stiffness of the leg was derived using impact velocity and wall reaction force data. The results disproved the role of the knee joint in regulating initial leg stiffness and provided only partial support for the hypothesized improved cushioning. Larger knee flexion at contact reduced impact force but increased the shock travelling throughout the shank. Conversely, softer interfaces produced sizable reductions in both initial leg stiffness and severity of the impact experienced by the lower limb. Force rate of loading was found to be highly correlated (r = 0.95) to limb stiffness that was defined by the heel fat pad and interface deformations. These results would suggest that interface interventions are more likely to protect the locomotor system against impact loading than knee angle strategies.

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