Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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In vivo intramuscular fascicle-aponeuroses dynamics of the human medial gastrocnemius during plantarflexion and dorsiflexion of the foot.

Velocity-encoded phase-contrast magnetic resonance (MR) imaging techniques and a computer-controlled MR-compatible foot pedal device were used to investigate the medial gastrocnemius muscle and aponeurosis deformations during passive and active eccentric movements of the plantarflexors. Intrafascicular strain, measured as the ratio of strain in the fascicle segment at its insertion to strain at its origin, was nonuniform along the proximodistal axis of the muscle (P < 0.01), progressively increasing from the proximal to distal direction. The high intrafascicular strain regions appeared to correlate with the muscle regions that are likely to encounter high stress concentrations, i.e., the regions where the muscle physiological cross section decreases close to the tendons. The architectural gear ratio, i.e., the mechanical amplification ratio of fascicle length displacement to that of tendon/aponeuroses in a pennate muscle, also exhibited significant regional differences, with the highest ratios in the proximal region of the muscle accompanied by a higher initial pennation angle and a larger range of fascicular rotation about the origin. Values close to unity in the distal region of the muscle suggest that the aponeurosis separation may decrease in this region. Fascicle length and pennation angle changes were significantly influenced by force generation in the muscle, probably due to a shortening of the loaded muscle fibers relative to a passive condition. Overall, our data illustrate significant proximodistal intramuscular heterogeneity as supported by a regionally variable end-to-end strain ratio of fascicles and angle changes in the medial gastrocnemius muscle during passive and active ankle movements. These observations emphasize the need to reassess current conceptual models of muscle-tendon mechanics.

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