Authors: Haufe, F. L. ; Wolf, P. ; Riener, R. ; Grimmer, M.
Passive spring-like structures can store and return energy during cyclic movements and thereby reduce the energetic cost of locomotion. That makes them important components of the human body and wearable assistive devices alike. This study investigates how springs placed anteriorly across the hip joint affect leg joint angles and powers, and leg muscle activities during level walking at 0.5 to 2.1 m/s. We hypothesized that the anterior hip springs (I) load hip extension, (II) support hip flexion and (III) affect ankle muscle activity and dynamics during walking. Effects at the ankle were expected because hip and ankle redistribute segmental power in concert to achieve forward progression. We observed that the participants’ contribution to hip power did not increase during hip extension as the spring stored energy. Simultaneously, the activities of plantarflexor muscles that modulate energy storage in the Achilles tendon were reduced by 28% (gastrocnemius medialis) and 9% (soleus). As the spring returned energy with the onset of hip flexion, the participants’ contribution to hip power was reduced by as much as 23%. Soleus activity before push-off increased by up to 9%. Instead of loading hip extension, anterior hip springs seem to store and return parts of the energy normally exchanged with the Achilles tendon. Thereby, the springs support hip flexion but may reduce elastic energy storage in and hence recoil from the Achilles tendon. This interaction should be considered during the design and simulation of wearable assistive devices as it might – depending on user characteristics – enhance or diminish their overall functionality.
- Published in: Journal of Biomechanics (Volume 98, 2. January 2020, 109432)
- DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2019.109432
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- Date: 2020