The purpose of this study was to mechanically evoke a triceps surae stretch reflex during the swing phase of running, to study its within-the-step phase dependency. Seven participants ran on a treadmill at 2.8 m·s−1 wearing an exoskeleton capable of evoking a sudden ankle dorsiflexion. We measured the electromyographic activity of the soleus, medial and lateral gastrocnemii just after the perturbation to evaluate the triceps surae stretch reflex. Similar perturbations were also delivered at rest. Our results showed that the stretch reflex was suppressed during the swing phase of running, except in late swing where a late reflex response was observed. At rest, all triceps surae muscles showed an early reflex response to stretch. Our findings suggest that the triceps surae short/medium-latency stretch reflex cannot be evoked during swing phase and thus cannot contribute to the control of the locomotor pattern after aperturbation during this phase.
The authors are with the Laboratory of Physiology and Biomechanics of Locomotion, Institute of NeuroScience, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.