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Fatemeh Azadinia, Ismail Ebrahimi-Takamjani, Mojtaba Kamyab, Morteza Asgari and Mohamad Parnianpour

The characteristics of postural sway were assessed in quiet standing under three different postural task conditions in 14 patients with nonspecific chronic low back pain and 12 healthy subjects using linear and nonlinear center of pressure parameters. The linear parameters consisted of area, the mean total velocity, sway amplitude, the SD of velocity, and the phase plane portrait. The nonlinear parameters included the Lyapunov exponent, sample entropy, and the correlation dimension. The results showed that the amount of postural sway was higher in the patients with low back pain compared with the healthy subjects. Assessing the nonlinear parameters of the center of pressure showed a lower sample entropy and a higher correlation dimension in the patients with low back pain compared with the healthy subjects. The results of this study demonstrate the greater regularity and higher dimensionality of the center of pressure fluctuations in patients with nonspecific chronic low back pain, which suggests that these patients adopt different postural control strategies to maintain an upright stance.

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Christopher A. DiCesare, Scott Bonnette, Gregory D. Myer and Adam W. Kiefer

Biomechanical analysis can effectively identify factors associated with task performance and injury risk, but often does not account for the interaction among the components that underlie task execution. Uncontrolled manifold (UCM) analyses were applied to data from 38 female, adolescent athletes performing single-leg drop landings and were used to differentiate successful and unsuccessful task performance by examining the frontal plane joint variance within the UCM (V UCM) that stabilized the horizontal center of mass position (V UCM) and within the orthogonal subspace (V ORT). The UCM revealed stronger coordination, indicated by the V UCM/V ORT ratio, in the successful condition. This may inform future research examining reduced motor coordination in failed movement tasks and its relation to injury risk and allow for targeted interventions that consider coordination processes rather than joint-specific outcomes.

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Leah S. Goudy, Brandon Rhett Rigby, Lisa Silliman-French and Kevin A. Becker

The purpose of this study was to determine changes in balance, postural sway, and quality of life after 6 wk of simulated horseback riding in adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Eight older adults completed two 60-min riding sessions weekly for 6 wk. Variables of balance, postural sway, and quality of life were measured 6 wks before and within 1 wk before and after the intervention. Berg Balance Scale scores decreased from baseline to preintervention (48.36 ± 5.97 vs. 45.86 ± 6.42, p = .050) and increased from preintervention to postintervention (45.86 ± 6.42 vs. 50.00 ± 4.38, p = .002). Cognitive impairment, a dimension of quality of life, improved from baseline to postintervention (37.5 ± 20.5 vs. 21.5 ± 14.4, p = .007). Six weeks of simulated horseback riding may improve balance and cognitive impairment in older adults with Parkinson’s disease.

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Grace C. Bellinger, Kristen A. Pickett and Andrea H. Mason

Reaching and grasping are often completed while walking, yet the interlimb coordination required for such a combined task is not fully understood. Previous studies have produced contradictory evidence regarding preference for support of the lower limb ipsilateral or contralateral to the upper limb when performing a reaching task. This coordinative aspect of the combined task provides insight into whether the two tasks are mutually modified or if the reach is superimposed upon normal arm swinging. Collectively, 18 right-handed young adults walked slower, took shorter steps, and spent more time in double support during the combined task compared with walking alone. The peak grasp aperture was larger in walking reach-to-grasp trials compared with standing trials. There was not a strong trend for lower limb support preferences at the reach initiation or object contact. The participants could begin walking with either foot and demonstrated variability of preferred gait initiation patterns. There was a range of interlimb coordination patterns, none of which could be generalized to all young adults. The variability with which healthy right-handed young adults execute a combined walking reach-to-grasp task suggests that the cyclical (walking) and discrete (prehension) motor tasks may have separate motor control mechanisms, as proposed in the two primitives theory.

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James Hackney, Jade McFarland, David Smith and Clinton Wallis

Most studies of high-speed lower body movements include practice repetitions for facilitating consistency between the trials. We investigated whether 20 repetitions of drop landing (from a 30.5-cm platform onto a force plate) could improve consistency in maximum ground reaction force, linear lower body stiffness, depth of landing, and jump height in 20 healthy, young adults. Coefficient of variation was the construct for variability used to compare the first to the last five repetitions for each variable. We found that the practice had the greatest effect on maximum ground reaction force (p = .017), and had smaller and similar effects on lower body stiffness and depth of landing (p values = .074 and .044, respectively), and no measurable effect on jump height. These findings suggest that the effect of practice on drop landing differs depending upon the variable measure and that 20 repetitions significantly improve consistency in ground reaction force.

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ZáNean McClain, E. Andrew Pitchford and Jill Pawlowski

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Anne Sofie B. Malling, Bo M. Morberg, Lene Wermuth, Ole Gredal, Per Bech and Bente R. Jensen

The authors examined the associations between the performance of upper- and lower-extremity motor tasks across task complexity and motor symptom severity, overall disease severity, and the physical aspects of quality of life in persons with Parkinson’s disease. The performance was assessed for three lower-extremity tasks and two upper-extremity tasks of different levels of complexity. The motor symptoms and overall disease severity correlated significantly with all motor tasks with higher correlation coefficients in the complex tasks. Thus, the strength of the association between disease severity or severity of motor symptoms and motor performance is task-specific, with higher values in complex motor tasks than in simpler motor tasks. Mobility-related and activity-of-daily-living-related quality of life correlated with lower-extremity tasks of low and medium complexity and with the complex upper-extremity task, respectively; this suggests that Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire-39 is capable of differentiating between the impact of gross and fine motor function on quality of life.

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Janina M. Prado-Rico and Marcos Duarte

The goal of this work was to investigate body weight distribution during relaxed and quiet (constrained) standing tasks. Forty-one healthy, young adults performed relaxed and quiet standing tasks, and they stood with each leg on a separate force plate. The weight distribution asymmetry across time was computed as the difference between the right and left vertical force time series. The subjects presented a small average across time asymmetry during relaxed and quiet standing. However, during relaxed standing, the subjects alternated between postures, and, as a result, they were largely asymmetrical over time (instant by instant). Two unexpected results that the authors found for the relaxed standing task were that women were more asymmetrical over time than men and that there were two preferential modes of weight distribution.

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Manuel E. Hernandez, Erin O’Donnell, Gioella Chaparro, Roee Holtzer, Meltem Izzetoglu, Brian M. Sandroff and Robert W. Motl

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy was used to evaluate prefrontal cortex activation differences between older adults with multiple sclerosis (MS) and healthy older adults (HOA) during the performance of a balance- and attention-demanding motor task. Ten older adults with MS and 12 HOA underwent functional near-infrared spectroscopy recording while talking, virtual beam walking, or virtual beam walking while talking on a self-paced treadmill. The MS group demonstrated smaller increases in prefrontal cortex oxygenation levels than HOA during virtual beam walking while talking than talking tasks. These findings indicate a decreased ability to allocate additional attentional resources in challenging walking conditions among MS compared with HOA. This study is the first to investigate brain activation dynamics during the performance of balance- and attention-demanding motor tasks in persons with MS.

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Aaron England, Timothy Brusseau, Ryan Burns, Dirk Koester, Maria Newton and Matt Thiese

In adult performers, research suggests that mental representations (MRs) mediate performance of skilled movement. During adolescence, cortical brain areas responsible for generating MRs develop rapidly along with limb size, which, together, may affect movement and movement representations. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between adolescent MRs and free-throw shooting expertise. Using structural dimensional analysis of MRs, skilled (n = 11) and less skilled (n = 11) participants sorted free-throw submovements according to their relatedness in movement execution. Data were analyzed using a hierarchical cluster analysis, factor analysis, and invariance test to examine between-group cluster comparisons. Cluster solutions for the skilled and less skilled participants were significantly variant (λ = 0.56). This method of measuring MRs distinguished expertise-related differences in MRs in an adolescent population. Findings may influence methods in which practitioners detect motor-planning faults, track development, and provide feedback to trainees.