Human ankle joint stiffness over the full range of muscle activation levels

P. L. Weiss, I. W. Hunter, R. E. Kearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


System identification techniques have been used to track changes in dynamic stiffness of the human ankle joint over a wide range of muscle contraction levels. Subjects lay supine on an experimental table with their left foot encased in a rigid, low-inertia cast which was fixed to an electro-hydraulic actuator operating as a position servo. Subjects generated tonic plantarflexor or dorsiflexor torques of different magnitudes ranging from rest to maximum voluntary contractions (MVC) during repeated presentations of a stochastic ankle angular position perturbation. Compliance impulse response functions (IRF) were determined from every 2.5 s perturbation sequence. The gain (G), natural freqency (ωn), and damping (ζ) parameters of the second-order model providing the best fit to each IRF were determined and used to compute the corresponding inertial (I), viscous (B) and elastic (K) stiffness parameters. The behaviour of these parameters with mean torque was found to follow two simple rules. First, the elastic parameter (K) increased in proportion to mean ankle torque as it was varied from rest to MVC; these changes were considerable involving increases of more than an order of magnitude. Second, the damping parameter (ζ) remained almost invariant over the entire range of contractions despite the dramatic changes in K.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-544
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements-This work was supported by the Medical Research Council and National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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