JOURNAL ARTICLE

Differences of muscle co-contraction of the ankle joint between young and elderly adults during dynamic postural control at different speeds

Yoshitaka Iwamoto, Makoto Takahashi, Koichi Shinkoda
Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2017 August 2, 36 (1): 32
28764814

BACKGROUND: Agonist and antagonist muscle co-contractions during motor tasks are greater in the elderly than in young adults. During normal walking, muscle co-contraction increases with gait speed in young adults, but not in elderly adults. However, no study has compared the effects of speed on muscle co-contraction of the ankle joint during dynamic postural control in young and elderly adults. We compared muscle co-contractions of the ankle joint between young and elderly subjects during a functional stability boundary test at different speeds.

METHODS: Fifteen young adults and 16 community-dwelling elderly adults participated in this study. The task was functional stability boundary tests at different speeds (preferred and fast). Electromyographic evaluations of the tibialis anterior and soleus were recorded. The muscle co-contraction was evaluated using the co-contraction index (CI).

RESULTS: There were no statistically significant differences in the postural sway parameters between the two age groups. Elderly subjects showed larger CI in both speed conditions than did the young subjects. CI was higher in the fast speed condition than in the preferred speed condition in the young subjects, but there was no difference in the elderly subjects. Moreover, after dividing the analytical range into phases (acceleration and deceleration phases), the CI was larger in the deceleration phase than in the acceleration phase in both groups, except for the young subjects in the fast speed conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results showed a greater muscle co-contraction of the ankle joint during dynamic postural control in elderly subjects than in young subjects not only in the preferred speed condition but also in the fast speed condition. In addition, the young subjects showed increased muscle co-contraction in the fast speed condition compared with that in the preferred speed condition; however, the elderly subjects showed no significant difference in muscle co-contraction between the two speed conditions. This indicates that fast movements cause different influences on dynamic postural control in elderly people, particularly from the point of view of muscle activation. These findings highlight the differences in the speed effects on muscle co-contraction of the ankle joint during dynamic postural control between the two age groups.

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