During an upright stance of humans, it is usually assumed that a stiffer ankle joint contributes to stabilize the stance. To show that under certain conditions a stiffer ankle joint can reduce the stability, the frequency responses of the moment and the angle of the ankle joint against external disturbances caused by random horizontal translations of the support surface were evaluated in ten healthy adult subjects by varying the difficulty of the task at four levels. When it was difficult to keep the upright stance, the subject tended to make the ankle joint stiffer. The transfer function relating the external disturbance moment to the ankle joint moment showed a larger gain in the high frequency range (>0.3 Hz) compared with the gains obtained under easier conditions. A simulation analysis based on a simple inverted pendulum model also reproduced this tendency. These results indicate that the stiffer ankle joint and the resulting higher ankle moment for high frequency external disturbances enhance the possibility that the center of pressure exceeds the limit arising from the size of the feet and can make the upright stance unstable.
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