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The functional role of triceps during human locomotion

Abstract : Human gait necessitates the generation of both propulsive force to propel the body forward and anti-gravitational force to maintain dynamic postural equilibrium. This requires the central nervous system to orchestrate lower limb muscles. Notably the CNS has to control ankle plantar flexors activity as the whole body rotates around the ankle, which in turn interfaces with the external environment. From early to middle stance, triceps surae (TS) contracts eccentrically thus resisting tibial rotation around the tarsus. However, late stance is marked by an increase in ground reaction forces, commonly known as « Push-off », in ankle torque and electromyographic activity of TS. The role of triceps surae during late stance is object of debate in the literature. Some believe it is responsible for the push-off other insist it is sole role is to maintain dynamic postural equilibrium. In this work, we postulate that the increase in TS activity in late stance is to decelerate vertically the fall of the centre of mass. We further hypothesise that temporal modulation of TS activity determines global gait kinematics (cadence and step length) and kinetics. Two studies have been conducted to test the work hypotheses. Ground reaction force data gathered from a large force platform and EMG activity of soleus, medial and lateral gastrocnemius of stance was measured using surface electrodes. In the first study, subjects initiated gait with and without an added mass of 20 kg attached around the waist. Adding the weight increases propulsive force. If TS activity increases as well than it is responsible for generating propulsive force. The second study is composed of two experiments. In the first volunteers performed gait initiation at three different walking velocity conditions while maintain step length constant. In the second experiment, subjects were inclined and asked to recuperate their equilibrium by performing a step. They were asked to perform three step lengths. Results showed that: 1) Triceps does not participate in push-off but brakes the fall of the centre of mass during late single stance. 2) Increasing TS EMG activity in late stance is due to an increase in the requirement of maintaining dynamic postural equilibrium. 3) Control over the duration of TS activity determines cadence and step length and thus the kinematics of gait. Temporal modulation of TS also sets the position of centre of mass with respect to centre of pressure at the moment of foot-contact. 4) By controlling the distance between the two, the CNS modulates the disequilibrium torque that is responsible for propulsive force and thus the kinetics of gait.
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Jean-Louis Honeine. The functional role of triceps during human locomotion. Agricultural sciences. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI; Università degli studi (Pavie, Italie), 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013PA113005⟩. ⟨tel-00919418⟩

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