Understanding joint stiffness and stability is beneficial for assessing injury risk. The purpose of this study was to examine joint rotational stiffness for individual muscles contributing to elbow joint stability. Fifteen male participants maintained combinations of three body orientations (standing, supine, sitting) and three hand preloads (no load, solid tube, fluid filled tube) while a device imposed a sudden elbow extension. Elbow angle and activity from nine muscles were inputs to a biomechanical model to determine relative contributions to elbow joint rotational stiffness, reported as percent of total stiffness. A body orientation by preload interaction was evident for most muscles (P < .001). Brachioradialis had the largest change in contribution while standing (no load, 18.5%; solid, 23.8%; fluid, 26.3%). Across trials, the greatest contributions were brachialis (30.4 ± 1.9%) and brachioradialis (21.7 ± 2.2%). Contributions from the forearm muscles and triceps were 5.5 ± 0.6% and 9.2 ± 1.9%, respectively. Contributions increased at time points closer to the perturbation (baseline to anticipatory), indicating increased neuromuscular response to resist rotation. This study quantified muscle contributions that resist elbow perturbations, found that forearm muscles contribute marginally and showed that orientation and preload should be considered when evaluating elbow joint stiffness and safety.
Michael W.R. Holmes is with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, ON, Canada. Peter J. Keir is with the Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada. Address author correspondence to Peter J. Keir at firstname.lastname@example.org.