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Wolfgang Potthast, Gert-Peter Brüggemann, Arne Lundberg and Anton Arndt

The purpose of this study was to quantify relative contributions of impact interface, muscle activity, and knee angle to the magnitudes of tibial and femoral accelerations occurring after external impacts. Impacts were initiated with a pneumatically driven impacter under the heels of four volunteers. Impact forces were quantified with a force sensor. Segmental accelerations were measured with bone mounted accelerometers. Experimental interventions were hard and soft shock interfaces, different knee angles (0°, 20°, 40° knee flexion), and muscular preactivation (0%, 30%, 60% of maximal voluntary contraction) of gastrocnemii, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Greater knee flexion led to lower impact forces and higher tibial accelerations. Increased muscular activation led to higher forces and lower tibial accelerations. The softer of the two shock interfaces under study reduced both parameters. The effects on accelerations and forces through the activation and knee angle changes were greater than the effect of interface variations. The hardness of the two shock interfaces explained less than 10% of the variance of accelerations and impact forces, whereas knee angle changes explained 25–29%, and preactivation changes explained 35–48% of the variances. It can be concluded that muscle force and knee joint angle have greater effects in comparison with interface hardness on the severity of shocks on the lower leg.