Do somatosensory conditions from the foot and ankle affect postural responses to plantar-flexor muscles fatigue during bipedal quiet stance?

Petra Hlavackova, Nicolas Vuillerme
Gait & Posture 2012, 36 (1): 16-9
The present study investigated the effects of somatosensory conditions at the foot and ankle on postural responses to plantar-flexor muscle fatigue during bipedal quiet stance. Twenty-two young healthy adults were asked to stand upright as still as possible with their eyes closed in three somatosensory conditions (normal, altered and improved) both prior to and after exercises inducing plantar-flexor muscle fatigue. In the normal condition, the postural task was executed on a firm support surface constituted by the force platform. In the altered condition, a 2-cm thick foam support surface was placed under the subjects' feet. In the improved condition, increased cutaneous feedback at the foot and ankle was provided by strips of athletic tape applied across both their ankle joints. Muscle fatigue was induced in the plantar-flexor muscles of both legs through the execution of a repeated standing heel raise exercise. Centre of foot pressure displacements were recorded using a force platform. Results showed that plantar-flexor muscle fatigue yielded increased centre of foot pressure displacements under normal foot and ankle sensory conditions. Furthermore, this effect was exacerbated under altered foot and ankle sensory conditions and mitigated under improved foot and ankle sensory conditions. Altogether, the present findings suggested an increased reliance on somatosensory information from the foot and ankle for controlling upright posture in the presence of plantar-flexor muscle fatigue.

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