Predicting muscle fascicle length changes during passive movements may lead to a better understanding of muscle function. The purpose of this study was to experimentally compare fascicle length changes in the gastrocnemius during two-joint passive movements with a previously derived kinematic model based on anatomical measures from a cadaver. The ratio of passive ankle to knee motion was manipulated to generate medial gastrocnemius fascicle elongation and lateral gastrocnemius fascicle shortening. Ultrasound images from both heads of the gastrocnemius fascicles were acquired at 10° knee flexion increments and compared with this kinematic model. Our results suggest that the two-joint kinematic model from which we originally based our knee and ankle movements did not adequately reflect fascicle length changes during any of the movement conditions in this study. From our data, we propose that for every degree of ankle motion the medial and lateral gastrocnemius changes 0.42 mm and 0.96 mm, respectively, whereas changes of 0.14 mm and 0.22 mm are observed for the medial and lateral gastrocnemius, respectively, during knee movements.
The authors are with the Biomechanics Laboratory, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. Stanhope is now with the Dept. of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences and the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.