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Jocelyn F. Hafer and Katherine A. Boyer

The link between age-related changes in muscle strength and gait is unclear. We tested if knee extensor functional demand differs by age and physical activity status and if functional demand increases with walking speed or after exercise. Gait and knee extensor muscle torque were collected from young adults and highly and less active older adults before and after treadmill walking. Functional demand was the ratio of knee moments during gait to knee extensor muscle torques estimated from participant-specific torque–velocity curves. Functional demand at the peak knee flexion moment was greater in less active older adults than young adults (29.3% [14.3%] vs 24.6% [12.1%]) and increased with walking speed (32.0% [13.9%] vs 22.8% [10.4%]). Functional demand at both knee extension moments increased ∼2% to 3% after exercise. The low functional demand found in this study suggests that healthy adults maintain a reserve of knee extensor strength.

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Katherine A. Boyer, Julia Freedman Silvernail and Joseph Hamill

Injury rates among runners are high, with the knee injured most frequently. The interaction of running experience and running mechanics is not well understood but may be important for understanding relative injury risk in low vs higher mileage runners. The study aim was to apply a principal component analysis (PCA) to test the hypothesis that differences exist in kinematic waveforms and coordination between higher and low mileage groups. Gait data were collected for 50 subjects running at 3.5 m/s assigned to either a low (< 15 miles/wk) or higher (> 20 miles/wk, 1 year experience) mileage group. A PCA was performed on a matrix of trial vectors of all force, joint kinematic, and center of pressure data. The projection of the subjects’ trial vectors onto the linear combination of PC7, PC10, PC13, and PC19 was significantly different between the higher and lower mileage groups (d = 0.63, P = .012). This resultant PC represented variation in transverse plane pelvic rotation, hip internal rotation, and hip and knee abduction and adduction angles. These results suggest the coordination of lower extremity segment kinematics is different for lower and higher mileage runners. The adopted patterns of coordinated motion may explain the lower incidence of overuse knee injuries for higher mileage runners.

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Jocelyn F. Hafer, Mark S. Miller, Jane A. Kent and Katherine A. Boyer

Older females experience higher rates of disability than males, potentially due to sex-specific differences in gait and muscle function. The authors evaluated the effects of age and physical activity (PA) on gait mechanics and knee extensor muscle function in males and females. Three groups of 20 individuals (each 10 females) participated: young (21–35 y) and highly and less active older (55–70 y) adults. Knee extensor strength and joint mechanics during preferred speed gait were collected before and after 30 minutes of walking. Age by sex and PA by sex interactions indicated older and less active older females had lower concentric knee extensor muscle power and larger hip extension moments than males. After 30 minutes of walking, older less active adults had larger decreases in knee extensor power than their highly active older counterparts, and older adults of both sexes had decreases in ankle dorsiflexion moments while young adults did not. These results suggest that older, particularly less active, adults are susceptible to knee extensor muscle fatigue from moderate activity. For older adults, high levels of PA may be necessary to preserve gait mechanics in response to a bout of exercise. This new information may be important for targeting interventions in at-risk older adults.

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Julia Freedman Silvernail, Richard E.A. van Emmerik, Katherine Boyer, Michael A. Busa and Joseph Hamill

The development of a methodology to assess movement coordination has provided gait researchers a tool to assess movement organization. A challenge in analyzing movement coordination using vector coding lies within the inherent circularity of data garnered from this technique. Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to determine if accurate group comparisons can be made with varying techniques of vector coding analyses. Thigh–shank coordination was analyzed using a modified vector coding technique on data from 2 groups of runners. Movement coordination was compared between groups using 3 techniques: (1) linear average completed with compressed data (0°–180°) and noncompressed data (0°–360°), (2) coordination phase binning analysis; and (3) a circular statistics analysis. Circular statistics (inferential) analysis provided a rigorous comparison of average movement coordination between groups. In addition, the binning analysis provided a metric for detecting even small differences in the time spent with a particular coordination pattern between groups. However, the linear analysis provided erroneous group comparisons. Furthermore, with compressed data, linear analysis led to misclassification of coordination patterns. While data compression may be attractive as a means of simplifying statistical analysis of inherently circular data, recommendations are to use circular statistics and binning methods on noncompressed data.