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Edited by Mark D. Grabiner

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Noah Rosenblatt and Mark D. Grabiner

The expected rise in the number of older adults in the coming decades may exacerbate the social, medical and economic problems posed by falls and fall-related injuries. In part, the growing urgency for effective solutions refects the apparently constant average annual rate of falls by older adults over the past 30 years. Exercise by older adults can significantly reduce fall risk. However, the extent to which it does so raises the question as to whether its effectiveness can be increased. Results from recent studies support the view that avoiding a fall following a large postural disturbance is a complex motor skill that can be significantly improved by practice and thereby reducing fall risk. This reduction in fall risk appears to exceed that achieved by previously reported interventions. The principles on which the associated training protocol is based fall clearly within the discipline of kinesiology.

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Mark D. Grabiner and Tammy M. Owings

For this study it was hypothesized that when participants intended to perform a maximum voluntary concentric (or eccentric) contraction but had an eccentric (or concentric) contraction imposed upon them, the initial EMG measured during the isometric phase preceding the onset of the dynamometer motion would reflect the intended contraction condition. The surface EMG of the vastus lateralis muscle was measured in 24 participants performing isokinetic concentric and eccentric maximum voluntary knee extensor contractions. The contractions were initiated from rest and from the same knee flexion angle and required the same level of external force to trigger the onset of dynamometer motion. Vastus lateralis EMG were quantified during the isometric phase preceding the onset of the dynamometer motion. When participants intended to perform a concentric contraction but had an eccentric contraction imposed upon them, the initial EMG resembled that of a concentric contraction. When they intended to perform an eccentric contraction but had a concentric contraction imposed upon them, the initial EMG resembled that of an eccentric contraction. Overall, the difference between concentric and eccentric contractions observed during the period of the initial muscle activation implies that descending signals include information that distinguishes between eccentric and concentric contractions.

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Philip E. Martin and Mark D. Grabiner

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Brian L. Davis and Mark D. Grabiner

Measurement of postural sway is a valuable research and clinical tool that can provide information related to various central and peripheral elements of the nervous system. The present study involved modeling single-limb standing as an inverted pendulum tethered to a supporting surface by two sets of springs that simulated the stiffness of muscles spanning the joint and the inherent stiffness of the joint itself. There are four key elements of this model: (a) joint stiffness is greater in the frontal plane compared to the sagittal plane (neither being affected by fatigue), (b) muscle stiffness is exponentially related to its extension from a resting position, (c) muscle stiffness is reduced by fatigue, and (d) an "ankle strategy" is used to maintain upright single-limb posture. It is concluded that an inverted pendulum model can be used to adequately predict sway frequencies and amplitudes in the mediolateral (ML) and anteroposterior (AP) directions for single-limb stance pre- and postfatigue. In particular, it is possible for acute muscle fatigue to increase sway in the ML direction but not necessarily in the AP direction.

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Masao Tomioka, Tammy M. Owings and Mark D. Grabiner

We previously reported that lower extremity muscular strength of older adults did not predict success of a balance recovery task. We propose that lower extremity coordination may limit performance independently of lower extremity strength. The present study was conducted to determine the extent to which knee extension strength and hip–knee coordination independently contribute to maximum vertical jump height. Maximum vertical jump height and isometric and isokinetic knee extension strength and power were determined in 13 young adults. Hip–knee coordination during the vertical jump was quantified using relative phase angles. Stepwise nonlinear multiple regression determined the variable set that best modeled the relationship between the dependent variable, maximum vertical jump height, and the independent variables of strength, power, and coordination. The quadratic terms of the normalized knee extension strength at 60 deg·s–1, and the average relative phase during the propulsion phase of the vertical jump, collectively accounted for more than 80% of the shared variance (p = .001). The standardized regression coefficients of the two terms, .59 and .52, respectively (p = .004 and .008), indicated the independence and significance of the contributions of knee extension strength and hip–knee coordination to maximum vertical jump height. Despite the pitfalls of extrapolating these results to older adults performing a balance recovery task, the results are interpreted as supporting the contention that while muscle strength confers a number of functional benefits, the ability to avoid falling as a result of a trip is not necessarily ensured. Increased muscle strength per se can occur in the absence of improved kinematic coordination.

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Thomas M. Lundin, Dennis W. Jahnigen and Mark D. Grabiner

When rising from a chair, older adults have been reported to use a strategy in which the trunk is flexed to a greater extent than young adults, a strategy attributed by some to concerns with the postural stability demands of the task. This study determined the extent to which maximum trunk flexion angle during a self-paced sit-to-stand from a standardized initial position was influenced by the maximum isometric strength of the knee and trunk/hip extensor muscles in older adults. The hypothesis was that the larger maximum trunk flexion angle attained by older adults when rising from a chair is related to the maximum isometric strength of the knee and trunk-hip extensor muscles. To test this hypothesis, maximum voluntary isometric strength of the trunk extensor and knee extensor muscles of 28 older men and women were measured. Trunk motion during the sit-to-stand by these adults was men assessed using motion analysis. Multiple regression was used to characterize the relationship between the maximum trunk flexion angle and maximum isometric knee extensor and trunk extensor muscle strength. The derived relationship was neither statistically significant nor biomechanically meaningful. This result suggests that the trunk flexion angle attained by healthy older adults when rising from a chair from a standardized initial position is not influenced by knee extension and trunk-hip extension strength as measured in the present study.

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Timothy J. Koh, Mark D. Grabiner and John J. Brems

Shoulder kinematics, including scapular rotation relative to the trunk and humeral rotation relative to the scapula, were examined during humeral elevation in three vertical planes via video analysis of intracortical pins. Helical axis parameters provided an easily interpretable description of shoulder motion not subject to the limitations associated with Cardan/Euler angles. Between 30 and 150° of elevation in each plane, the scapula rotated almost solely about an axis perpendicular to the scapula. Additional scapular rotation appeared to support the notion that the scapula moves “toward” the plane of elevation. Humeral rotation took place mainly in the plane of the scapula independent of the plane of elevation. Many parameters of shoulder complex kinematics were quite similar across all planes of elevation, suggesting a consistent movement pattern with subtle differences associated with the plane of elevation.

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Thomas M. Lundin, Jon W. Feuerbach and Mark D. Grabiner

The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of plantar flexor and dorsiflexor fatigue on postural sway amplitude during unilateral, or one-legged, stance. It was hypothesized that plantar flexor and dorsiflexor fatigue would increase unilateral postural sway amplitude. Eight uninjured male subjects participated in pre- and postfatigue unilateral stability tests. Selected parameters describing medial-lateral (ML) and anterior-posterior (AP) postural sway were measured on a Chattecx Balance System before and after an isokinetic fatigue protocol. The fatigue protocol resulted in a significant increase in ML postural sway amplitude (p < 0.05) and an increase in AP sway amplitude (p = 0.065). Previously, links have been established between increased postural sway amplitude and ankle joint injury. Thus, fatigue of the plantar flexors and dorsiflexors, which increased postural sway amplitude, may render the ankle joint susceptible to injury. Induced ankle muscle fatigue may represent a valid paradigm to study the causes of traumatic ankle joint injury.

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Noah J. Rosenblatt, Christopher P. Hurt and Mark D. Grabiner

Recent experimental findings support theoretical predictions that across walking conditions the motor system chooses foot placement to achieve a constant minimum “margin of stability” (MOSmin)—distance between the extrapolated center of mass and base of support. For example, while step width varies, similar average MOSmin exists between overground and treadmill walking and between overground and compliant/irregular surface walking. However, predictions regarding the invariance of MOSmin to step-by-step changes in foot placement cannot be verified by average values. The purpose of this study was to determine average changes in, and the sensitivity of MOSmin to varying step widths during two walking tasks. Eight young subjects walked on a dual-belt treadmill before and after receiving information that stepping on the physical gap between the belts causes no adverse effects. Information decreased step width by 17% (p = .01), whereas MOSmin was unaffected (p = .12). Regardless of information, subject-specific regressions between step-by-step values of step width and MOSmin explained, on average, only 5% of the shared variance (β = 0.11 ± 0.05). Thus, MOSmin appears to be insensitive to changing step width. Accordingly, during treadmill walking, step width is chosen to maintain MOSmin. If MOSmin remains insensitive to step width across other dynamic tasks, then assessing an individual’s stability while performing theses tasks could help describe the health of the motor system.