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Passive stiffness of the gastrocnemius muscle in athletes with spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy

Hussain, Ayser and Onambele, Gladys and Williams, Alun G. and Morse, Christopher I. (2013) Passive stiffness of the gastrocnemius muscle in athletes with spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy. European journal of applied physiology, 113 (9). pp. 2291-2299. ISSN 1439-6327

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Abstract

The passive properties of the muscle–tendon unit are regularly assessed in individuals with cerebral palsy (CP). However, no information is available on the passive properties of adult muscle, and whether any differences exist between the paretic and control muscles. Eleven ambulant male athletes with spastic hemiplegic CP (21.2 ± 3.0 years) and controls without neurological impairment (age = 21.8 ± 2.2 years) completed two and one passive stretch session, respectively. During each session, the ankle was passively dorsiflexed until end range of motion (ROM), whilst recording passive ankle angle, torque and gastrocnemius medialis (GM) myotendinous junction (MTJ) displacement. In addition, GM cross-sectional area (CSA) and length were measured. Subsequently, in vivo stress and strain were determined to calculate elastic modulus. Passive stiffness, MTJ displacement and ROM of the paretic GM were not different from the control muscles. However, the elastic modulus of the paretic GM was two times stiffer than the control GM muscles. In conclusion, athletes with CP exhibit absolute passive muscle stiffness similar to the controls; however, the elastic modulus of the CP muscle was significantly greater. Therefore, throughout the same ROM a smaller GM CSA in CP athletes has to dissipate larger relative torque compared to the control muscles, consequently causing the muscle to elongate to the same extent as the non-paretic muscle under stretch.

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