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Open Access Research

Changes in joint coupling and variability during walking following tibialis posterior muscle fatigue

Reed Ferber12* and Michael B Pohl1

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

2 Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2011, 4:6  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-4-6

Published: 4 February 2011

Abstract

Background

The tibialis posterior muscle is believed to play a key role in controlling foot mechanics during the stance phase of gait. However, an experiment involving localised tibialis posterior muscle fatigue, and analysis of discrete rearfoot and forefoot kinematic variables, indicated that reduced force output of the tibialis posterior muscle did not alter rearfoot and forefoot motion during gait. Thus, to better understand how muscle fatigue affects foot kinematics and injury potential, the purpose of this study was to reanalyze the data and investigate shank, rearfoot and forefoot joint coupling and coupling variability during walking.

Methods

Twenty-nine participants underwent an exercise fatigue protocol aimed at reducing the force output of tibialis posterior. An eight camera motion analysis system was used to evaluate 3 D shank and foot joint coupling and coupling variability during treadmill walking both pre- and post-fatigue.

Results

The fatigue protocol was successful in reducing the maximal isometric force by over 30% and a concomitant increase in coupling motion of the shank in the transverse plane and forefoot in the sagittal and transverse planes relative to frontal plane motion of the rearfoot. In addition, an increase in joint coupling variability was measured between the shank and rearfoot and between the rearfoot and forefoot during the fatigue condition.

Conclusions

The reduced function of the tibialis posterior muscle following fatigue resulted in a disruption in typical shank and foot joint coupling patterns and an increased variability in joint coupling. These results could help explain tibialis posterior injury aetiology.