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Michael W.R. Holmes and Peter J. Keir

Understanding joint stiffness and stability is beneficial for assessing injury risk. The purpose of this study was to examine joint rotational stiffness for individual muscles contributing to elbow joint stability. Fifteen male participants maintained combinations of three body orientations (standing, supine, sitting) and three hand preloads (no load, solid tube, fluid filled tube) while a device imposed a sudden elbow extension. Elbow angle and activity from nine muscles were inputs to a biomechanical model to determine relative contributions to elbow joint rotational stiffness, reported as percent of total stiffness. A body orientation by preload interaction was evident for most muscles (P < .001). Brachioradialis had the largest change in contribution while standing (no load, 18.5%; solid, 23.8%; fluid, 26.3%). Across trials, the greatest contributions were brachialis (30.4 ± 1.9%) and brachioradialis (21.7 ± 2.2%). Contributions from the forearm muscles and triceps were 5.5 ± 0.6% and 9.2 ± 1.9%, respectively. Contributions increased at time points closer to the perturbation (baseline to anticipatory), indicating increased neuromuscular response to resist rotation. This study quantified muscle contributions that resist elbow perturbations, found that forearm muscles contribute marginally and showed that orientation and preload should be considered when evaluating elbow joint stiffness and safety.

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Jennifer Di Domizio, Jeremy P.M. Mogk, and Peter J. Keir

Wrist splints are commonly prescribed to limit wrist motion and provide support at night and during inactive periods but are often used in the workplace. In theory, splinting the wrist should reduce wrist extensor muscle activity by stabilizing the joint and reducing the need for co-contraction to maintain posture. Ten healthy volunteers underwent a series of 24 10-s gripping trials with surface electromyography on 6 forearm muscles. Trials were randomized between splinted and nonsplinted conditions with three wrist postures (30° flexion, neutral, and 30° extension) and four grip efforts. Custom-made Plexiglas splints were taped to the dorsum of the hand and wrist. It was found that when simply holding the dynamometer, use of a splint led to a small (<1% MVE) but significant reduction in activity for all flexor muscles and extensor carpi radialis (all activity <4% maximum). At maximal grip, extensor muscle activity was significantly increased with the splints by 7.9–23.9% MVE. These data indicate that splinting at low-to-moderate grip forces may act to support the wrist against external loading, but appears counterproductive when exerting maximal forces. Wrist bracing should be limited to periods of no to light activity and avoided during tasks that require heavy efforts.