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Oren Tirosh and W.A. Sparrow

Analysis of human gait requires accurate measurement of foot-ground contact, often determined using either foot-ground reaction force thresholds or kinematic data. This study examined the differences in calculating event times across five vertical force thresholds and validated a vertical acceleration-based algorithm as a measure of heel contact and toe-off. The experiment also revealed the accuracy in determining heel contact and toe-off when raw displacement/time data were smoothed using a range of digital filter cutoff frequencies. Four healthy young participants completed 10 walking trials: 5 at normal speed (1.2 m/s) and 5 at fast speed (1.8 m/s). A 3D optoelectric system was synchronized with a forceplate to measure the times when vertical force exceeded (heel contact) or fell below (toe-off) 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 N. These were then compared and subsequently used to validate an acceleration-based method for calculating heel contact and toe-off with the displacement/time data filtered across a range of four cutoff frequencies. Linear regression analyses showed that during both normal and fast walking, any force threshold within 0 to 50 N could be used to predict heel-contact time. For estimating toe-off low force thresholds, 10 N or less should be used. When raw data were filtered with the optimal cutoff frequency, the absolute value (AbsDt) of the difference between the forceplate event times obtained using a 10-N threshold and the event times of heel contact and toe-off using the acceleration-based algorithms revealed average AbsDt of 10.0 and 16.5 ms for normal walking, and 7.4 and 13.5 ms for fast walking. Data smoothing with the non-optimal cutoff frequencies influenced the event times computed by the algorithms and produced greater AbsDt values. Optimal data filtering procedures are, therefore, essential for ensuring accurate measures of heel contact and toe-off when using the acceleration-based algorithms.

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Elizabeth J. Bradshaw and W.A. Sparrow

Adjustments to gait were examined when positioning the foot within a narrow target at the end of an approach for two impact conditions, hard and soft. Participants (6 M, 6 F) ran toward a target of three lengths along a 10-m walkway consisting of two marker strips with alternating black and white 0.5-m markings. Five trials were conducted for each target length and impact task, with trials block randomized between the 6 participants of each gender. A 50Hz digital video camera panned and filmed each trial from an elevated position adjacent to the walkway. Video footage was digitized to deduce the gait characteristics. A linear speed/accuracy tradeoff between target length and approach time was found for both impact tasks (hard, r = 0.99, p < 0.01; soft, r = 0.96, p < 0.05). For the hard-impact task, visual control time increased linearly (r = 0.99, p < 0.05) when whole-body approach velocity decreased. Visual control time was unaffected by whole-body approach velocity in the soft-impact task. A constant tau-margin of 1.08 describes the onset of visual control when approaching a target while running, with the control of braking during visual control described by a tau-dot of –0.85. Further research is needed to examine the control of braking in different targeting tasks.

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Elizabeth J. Bradshaw and W.A. Sparrow

The study examined adjustments to gait when positioning the foot within a narrow target area at the end of an approach or “run-up” similar to the take-off board in long jumping. In one task, participants (n = 24) sprinted toward and placed their foot within targets of four different lengths for 8-m and 12-m approach distances while “running through” the target. In a second task, participants (n = 12) sprinted toward and stopped with both feet in the target area. Infra-red timing lights were placed along the approach strip to measure movement times, with a camera positioned to view the whole approach to measure the total number of steps, and a second camera placed to view the final stride, which was analyzed using an in-house digitizing system to calculate the final stride characteristics. In the run-through task, a speed-accuracy trade-off showing a linear relationship (r = 0.976, p < .05) between target length and approach time was found for the 8-m amplitude. An accelerative sub-movement and a later targeting or “homing-in” sub-movement were found in the approach kinematics for both amplitudes. Final stride duration increased, and final stride velocity decreased with a decrease in target length.