Characterization of torque generating properties of ankle plantar flexor muscles in ambulant adults with cerebral palsy

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Rasmus Feld Frisk, Jakob Lorentzen, Lee Barber, Jens Bo Nielsen

PURPOSE: Weakness of plantar flexor muscles is related to reduced push-off and forward propulsion during gait in persons with cerebral palsy (CP). It has not been clarified to what an extent altered muscle contractile properties contribute to this muscle weakness. Here, we investigated the torque generating capacity and muscle fascicle length in the triceps surae muscle throughout ankle range of motion (ROM) in adults with CP using maximal single muscle twitches elicited by electrical nerve stimulation and ultrasonography.

METHODS: Fourteen adults with CP (age 36, SD 10.6, GMFCS I-III) and 17 neurological intact (NI) adults (age 36, SD 4.5) participated. Plantar flexor torque during supramaximal stimulation of the tibial nerve was recorded in a dynamometer at 8 ankle angles throughout ROM. Medial gastrocnemius (MG) fascicle length was tracked using ultrasonography.

RESULTS: Adults with CP showed reduced plantar flexor torque and fascicle shortening during supramaximal stimulation throughout ROM. The largest torque generation was observed at the ankle joint position where the largest shortening of MG fascicles was observed in both groups. This was at a more plantarflexed position in the CP group.

CONCLUSION: Reduced torque and fascicle shortening during supramaximal stimulation of the tibial nerve indicate impaired contractile properties of plantar flexor muscles in adults with CP. Maximal torque was observed at a more plantarflexed position in adults with CP indicating an altered torque-fascicle length/ankle angle relation. The findings suggest that gait rehabilitation in adults with CP may require special focus on improvement of muscle contractility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1127-1136
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 216478341