Energy cost optimized dorsal leaf ankle-foot-orthoses reduce impact forces on the contralateral leg in people with unilateral plantar flexor weakness

N.F.J. Waterval*, M. A. Brehm, J. Harlaar, F. Nollet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Background: In individuals with unilateral plantar flexor weakness, the second peak of the vertical ground reaction force (GRF) is decreased. This leads to a higher ground reaction force, e.g. impact, of the contralateral leg, potentially explaining quadriceps muscle and/or knee joint pain. Energy cost optimized dorsal leaf ankle-foot-orthoses (AFOs) may increase the push-off ground reaction force, which in turn could lead to lower impact forces on the contralateral leg. Research questions: 1) Are impact forces increased in the contralateral leg of people with unilateral plantar flexor weakness compared to healthy subjects? 2) Do energy cost optimized AFOs reduce impact forces and improve leg impact symmetry compared to walking without AFO in people with unilateral plantar flexor weakness? Methods: Nine subjects with unilateral plantar flexor weakness were provided a dorsal leaf AFO with a stiffness primarily optimized for energy cost. Using 3D gait analyses peak vertical GRF during loading response with and without AFO, and the symmetry between the legs in peak GRF were calculated. Peak GRF and symmetry were compared with reference data of 23 healthy subjects. Results: The contralateral leg showed a significant higher peak vertical GRF (12.0 ± 0.9 vs 11.2 ± 0.6 N/kg, p = 0.005) compared to healthy reference data. When walking with AFO, the peak vertical GRF of the contralateral leg significantly reduced (from 12.0 ± 0.9 to 11.4 ± 0.7 N/kg, p = 0.017) and symmetry improved compared to no AFO (from 0.93 ± 0.06 to 1.01 ± 0.05, p < 0.001). Conclusion: In subjects with unilateral plantar flexor weakness, impact force on the contralateral leg was increased when compared to healthy subjects and dorsal leaf AFOs optimized for energy cost substantially reduced this force and improved impact symmetry when compared to walking without AFO. This indicates that dorsal leaf AFOs may reduce pain resulting from increased impact forces during gait in the contralateral leg in people with unilateral plantar flexor weakness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-76
JournalGait and Posture
Volume92
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Ankle foot orthoses
  • Calf muscle weakness
  • Gait
  • Ground reaction forces
  • Osteoarthritis

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