Variation of rotation moment arms with hip flexion

J Biomech. 1999 May;32(5):493-501. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(99)00032-9.


Excessive flexion and internal rotation of the hip is a common gait abnormality among individuals with cerebral palsy. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of hip flexion on the rotational moment arms of the hip muscles. We hypothesized that flexion of the hip would increase internal rotation moment arms and decrease external rotation moment arms of the primary hip rotators. To test this hypothesis we measured rotational moment arms of the gluteus maximus (six compartments), gluteus medius (four compartments), gluteus minimus (three compartments) iliopsoas, piriformis, quadratus femoris, obturator internus, and obturator externus. Moment arms were measured at hip flexion angles of 0, 20, 45, 60, and 90 degrees in four cadavers. A three-dimensional computer model of the hip muscles was developed and compared to the experimental measurements. The experimental results and the computer model showed that the internal rotation moment arms of some muscles increase with flexion; the external rotation moment arms of other muscles decrease, and some muscles switch from external rotation to internal rotation as the hip is flexed. This trend toward internal rotation with hip flexion was apparent in 15 of the 18 muscle compartments we examined, suggesting that excessive hip flexion may exacerbate internal rotation of the hip. The gluteus maximus was found to have a large capacity for external rotation. Enhancing the activation of the gluteus maximus, a muscle that is frequently underactive in persons with cerebral palsy, may help correct excessive flexion and internal rotation of the hip.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Buttocks
  • Cadaver
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Femur
  • Gait / physiology
  • Hip Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Psoas Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Psoas Muscles / physiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Thigh