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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, Matthew Thiese and Benjamin Chase

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.

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Matthew J. Major, José L. Zavaleta and Steven A. Gard

Investigations have begun to connect leg prosthesis mechanical properties and user outcomes to optimize prosthesis designs for maximizing mobility. To date, parametric studies have focused on prosthetic foot properties, but not explicitly longitudinal stiffness that is uniquely modified through shock-absorbing pylons. The linear spring function of these devices might affect work performed on the body center of mass during walking. This study observed the effects of different levels of pylon stiffness on individual limb work of unilateral below-knee prosthesis users walking at customary and fast speeds. Longitudinal stiffness reductions were associated with minimal increase in prosthetic limb collision and push-off work, but inconsistent changes in sound limb work. These small and variable changes in limb work did not suggest an improvement in mechanical economy due to reductions in stiffness. Fast walking generated greater overall center of mass work demands across stiffness conditions. Results indicate limb work asymmetry as the prosthetic limb experienced on average 61% and 36% of collision and push-off work, respectively, relative to the sound limb. A series-spring model to estimate residuum and pylon stiffness effects on prosthesis energy storage suggested that minimal changes to limb work may be due to influences of the residual limb which dominate the system response.

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Aaron Derouin and Jim R. Potvin

Functional knee braces are frequently prescribed by physicians to ameliorate the function of individuals with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. These braces have been shown in the literature to potentially enhance knee stability by augmenting muscle activation patterns and the timing of muscle response to perturbations. However, very few techniques are available in the literature to quantify how those modifications in lower-limb muscle activity influence stability of the knee. The aim of the present study was to quantify the effect of an off-the-shelf functional knee brace on muscle contributions to knee joint rotational stiffness in ACL-deficient and ACL-reconstructed patients. Kinematic, electromyography, and kinetic data were incorporated into an electromyography-driven model of the lower extremity to calculate individual and total muscle contributions to knee joint rotational stiffness about the flexion–extension axis, for 4 independent variables: leg condition (contralateral uninjured, unbraced ACL injured, and braced ACL injured); knee flexion (5°–10°, 20°–25°, and 30°–35°); squat stability condition (stable and unstable); and injury status (ACL deficient and ACL reconstructed). Participants had significantly higher (P < .05, η 2 = .018) total knee joint rotational stiffness values while wearing the brace compared with the control leg. A 2-way interaction effect between stability and knee flexion (P < .05, η 2 = .040) for total joint rotational stiffness was also found.

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Zachary M. Gillen, Lacey E. Jahn, Marni E. Shoemaker, Brianna D. McKay, Alegra I. Mendez, Nicholas A. Bohannon and Joel T. Cramer

This study measured peak force (PF), peak rate of force development (PRFD), peak power (PP), concentric impulse, and eccentric impulse during static jump (SJ), countermovement jump (CMJ), and drop jump (DJ) in youth athletes to examine changes in vertical jump power with progressively greater eccentric preloading in relation to age, maturity, and muscle mass. Twenty-one males ranging from 6 to 16 years old performed the following vertical jumps in a random order: SJ, CMJ, and DJ from drop heights of 20, 30, and 40 cm (DJ20, DJ30, and DJ40, respectively). Measurements included PF, PRFD, PP, eccentric impulse, and concentric impulse for each vertical jump condition. Maturity offset was calculated, while ultrasound images quantified thigh muscle cross-sectional area (CSA). PF and PRFD increased from CMJ to DJ20. PP increased from SJ to CMJ. Concentric impulse remained unchanged, but eccentric impulse increased systematically from across jumps. The change in PP from SJ to CMJ was correlated with age, height, weight, maturity offset, and CSA. The CMJ resulted in the greatest concentric PP with the least amount of eccentric preloading. The inability of young athletes to translate the energy absorbed during the eccentric phase of the stretch-shortening cycle of DJs may be influenced by growth and development.

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Mhairi K. MacLean and Daniel P. Ferris

The authors tested 4 young healthy subjects walking with a powered knee exoskeleton to determine if it could reduce the metabolic cost of locomotion. Subjects walked with a backpack loaded and unloaded, on a treadmill with inclinations of 0° and 15°, and outdoors with varied natural terrain. Participants walked at a self-selected speed (average 1.0 m/s) for all conditions, except incline treadmill walking (average 0.5 m/s). The authors hypothesized that the knee exoskeleton would reduce the metabolic cost of walking uphill and with a load compared with walking without the exoskeleton. The knee exoskeleton reduced metabolic cost by 4.2% in the 15° incline with the backpack load. All other conditions had an increase in metabolic cost when using the knee exoskeleton compared with not using the exoskeleton. There was more variation in metabolic cost over the outdoor walking course with the knee exoskeleton than without it. Our findings indicate that powered assistance at the knee is more likely to decrease the metabolic cost of walking in uphill conditions and during loaded walking rather than in level conditions without a backpack load. Differences in positive mechanical work demand at the knee for varying conditions may explain the differences in metabolic benefit from the exoskeleton.

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Amy R. Lewis, William S.P. Robertson, Elissa J. Phillips, Paul N. Grimshaw and Marc Portus

For the wheelchair racing population, it is uncertain whether musculoskeletal models using the maximum isometric force-generating capacity of nonathletic, able-bodied individuals are appropriate, as few anthropometric parameters for wheelchair athletes are reported in the literature. In this study, a sensitivity analysis was performed in OpenSim, whereby the maximum isometric force-generating capacity of muscles was adjusted in 25% increments to literature-defined values between scaling factors of 0.25x and 4.0x for 2 elite athletes, at 3 speeds representative of race conditions. Convergence of the solution was used to assess the results. Artificially weakening a model presented unrealistic values, while artificially strengthening a model excessively (4.0x) demonstrated physiologically invalid muscle force values. The ideal scaling factors were 1.5x and 1.75x for each of the athletes, respectively, as was assessed through convergence of the solution. This was similar to the relative difference in limb masses between dual-energy X-Ray absorptiometry data and anthropometric data in the literature (1.49x and 1.70x), suggesting that dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry may be used to estimate the required scaling factors. The reliability of simulations for elite wheelchair racing athletes can be improved by appropriately increasing the maximum isometric force-generating capacity of muscles.

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James W. Roberts

Investigations of visually guided target-directed movement frequently adopt measures of within-participant spatial variability to infer the contribution of planning and control. The present study aims to verify this current trend by exploring the distribution of displacements at kinematic landmarks with a view to understand the potential sources of variability. Separate sets of participants aiming under full visual feedback conditions revealed a comparatively normal distribution for the displacements at peak velocity and movement end. However, there was demonstrable positive skew in the displacement at peak acceleration and a significant negative skew at peak deceleration. The ranges of the distributions as defined by either ±1SD or ±34.13th percentile (equivalent to an estimated 68.26% of responses) also revealed differences at peak deceleration. These findings indicate that spatial variability in the acceleration domain features highly informative systematic, as well as merely inherent, sources of variability. Implications for the further quantification of trial-by-trial behavior are discussed.