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Ergonomics. 1998 Dec;41(12):1771-91.

Using leg muscles as shock absorbers: theoretical predictions and experimental results of drop landing performance.

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Department of Physiology, C.N.R., Segrate, MI, Italy.


The use of muscles as power dissipators is investigated in this study, both from the modellistic and the experimental points of view. Theoretical predictions of the drop landing manoeuvre for a range of initial conditions have been obtained by accounting for the mechanical characteristics of knee extensor muscles, the limb geometry and assuming maximum neural activation. Resulting dynamics have been represented in the phase plane (vertical displacement versus speed) to better classify the damping performance. Predictions of safe landing in sedentary subjects were associated to dropping from a maximum (feet) height of 1.6-2.0 m (about 11 m on the moon). Athletes can extend up to 2.6-3.0 m, while for obese males (m = 100 kg, standard stature) the limit should reduce to 0.9-1.3 m. These results have been calculated by including in the model the estimated stiffness of the 'global elastic elements' acting below the squat position. Experimental landings from a height of 0.4, 0.7, 1.1 m (sedentary males (SM) and male (AM) and female (AF) athletes from the alpine ski national team) showed dynamics similar to the model predictions. While the peak power (for a drop height of about 0.7 m) was similar in SM and AF (AM shows a +40% increase, about 33 W/kg), AF stopped the downward movement after a time interval (0.219 +/- 0.030 s) from touch-down 20% significantly shorter than SM. Landing strategy and the effect of anatomical constraints are discussed in the paper.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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