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Brendan Burkett, James Smeathers and Timothy M. Barker

For amputees to perform an everyday task, or to participate in physical exercise, it is crucial that they have an appropriately designed and functional prosthesis. Past studies of transfemoral amputee gait have identified several limitations in the performance of amputees and in their prosthesis when compared with able-bodied walking, such as asymmetrical gait, slower walking speed, and higher energy demands. In particular the different inertial characteristics of the prosthesis relative to the sound limb results in a longer swing time for the prosthesis. The aim of this study was to determine whether this longer swing time could be addressed by modifying the alignment of the prosthesis. The following hypothesis was tested: Can the inertial characteristics of the prosthesis be improved by lowering the prosthetic knee joint, thereby producing a faster swing time? To test this hypothesis, a simple 2-D mathematical model was developed to simulate the swing-phase motion of the prosthetic leg. The model applies forward dynamics to the measured hip moment of the amputee in conjunction with the inertial characteristics of prosthetic components to predict the swing-phase motion. To evaluate the model and measure any change in prosthetic function, we conducted a kinematic analysis on four Paralympic runners as they ran. When evaluated, there was no significant difference (p > 0.05) between predicted and measured swing time. Of particular interest was how swing time was affected by changes in the position of the prosthetic knee axis. The model suggested that lowering the axis of the prosthetic knee could reduce the longer swing time. This hypothesis was confirmed when tested on the amputee runners.