As the spatial position and orientation of the subtalar ankle axis documented in biomechanical literature has mainly been estimated in unloaded conditions, it was hypothesized that high loads on the subtalar joint during very dynamic movements may force the respective axis away from its normal anatomical location. Therefore, high jump takeoffs of two elite athletes were selected to estimate and analyze the kinematic behavior of the subtalar axis during initial takeoff. The subtalar motion of the calcaneus was reconstructed using 3-D high-speed cinematography and a three-segment ankle model expressing subtalar pronation as the movement of the calcaneus around the talus. Results revealed that the subtalar axis moved away from its initial orientation and position at first heel impact, respectively more horizontally and laterally. The pronational angular displacement and velocity were calculated for all jumps and reached maximal values close to 30°, respectively 2000°/s. They compared surprisingly well with values obtained from frontal plane projections as used in a conventional cinematographical approach. But values corresponding to a subtalar axis fitting conventional anatomical descriptions showed consistently larger discrepancies, up to 10° for pronational displacement and close to 600°/s for pronational velocity. Finally, a comparison with results obtained from helical or screw axes produced nearly identical findings, suggesting good validity of the analytical techniques applied in this study for the 3-D reconstruction of the subtalar axis.
Bart Van Gheluwe is with the Laboratory of Biomechanics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium; Philip Roosen is with the Dept. of Physiotherapy & Podiatry, Artevelde Hogeschool Belgium; Kaat Desloovere is with the Dept. of Rehabilitation Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.