Muscles are significant contributors to the high joint forces developed in the knee during human walking. Not only do muscles contribute to the knee joint forces by acting to compress the joint, but they also develop joint forces indirectly through their contributions to the ground reaction forces via dynamic coupling. Thus, muscles can have significant contributions to forces at joints they do not span. However, few studies have investigated how the major lower-limb muscles contribute to the knee joint contact forces during walking. The goal of this study was to use a muscle-actuated forward dynamics simulation of walking to identify how individual muscles contribute to the axial tibio-femoral joint force. The simulation results showed that the vastii muscles are the primary contributors to the axial joint force in early stance while the gastrocnemius is the primary contributor in late stance. The tibio-femoral joint force generated by these muscles was at times greater than the muscle forces themselves. Muscles that do not cross the knee joint (e.g., the gluteus maximus and soleus) also have significant contributions to the tibio-femoral joint force through their contributions to the ground reaction forces. Further, small changes in walking kinematics (e.g., knee flexion angle) can have a significant effect on the magnitude of the knee joint forces. Thus, altering walking mechanics and muscle coordination patterns to utilize muscle groups that perform the same biomechanical function, yet contribute less to the knee joint forces may be an effective way to reduce knee joint loading during walking. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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