Estimates of Achilles tendon moment arm differ when axis of ankle rotation is derived from ankle motion

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The plantarflexor moment arm of the Achilles tendon determines the mechanical advantage of the triceps surae and also indirectly affects muscle force generation by setting the amount of muscle-tendon shortening per unit of ankle joint rotation. The Achilles tendon moment arm may be determined geometrically from an axis (or center) of joint rotation and the line of action of the tendon force, but such moment arms may be sensitive to the location of the joint axis. Using motion analysis to track an ultrasound probe overlying the Achilles tendon along with markers on the shank and foot, we measured Achilles tendon moment arm during loaded and unloaded dynamic plantarflexion motions in 15 healthy subjects. Three representations of the axis or center of rotation of the ankle were considered: (1) a functional axis, defined by motions of the foot and shank; (2) a transmalleolar axis; and (3) a transmalleolar midpoint. Moment arms about the functional axis were larger than those found using the transmalleolar axis and transmalleolar midpoint (all p < 0.001). Moment arms computed with the functional axis increased with plantarflexion angle (all p < 0.001), and increased with loading in the most plantarflexed position (p < 0.001) but these patterns were not observed when either using a transmalleolar axis or transmalleolar midpoint. Functional axis moment arms were similar to those estimated previously using magnetic resonance imaging, suggesting that using a functional axis for ultrasound-based geometric estimates of Achilles tendon moment arm is an improvement over landmark-based methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Jun 11 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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