Marker-based gait analysis of the lower limb that uses assumptions of generic anatomical morphology can be susceptible to errors, particularly in subjects with high levels of soft tissue coverage. We hypothesize that a functional approach for assessing skeletal kinematics, based on the application of techniques to reduce soft tissue artefact and functionally identify joint centres and axes, can more reliably (repeatably and reproducibly) assess the skeletal kinematics than a standard generic regression approach. Six healthy adults each performed 100 repetitions of a standardized motion, measured on four different days and by five different observers. Using OSSCA, a combination of functional approaches to reduce soft tissue artefact and identify joint centres and axes, the lengths of the femora and tibiae were determined to assess the inter-day and inter-observer reliability, and compared against a standard generic regression approach. The results indicate that the OSSCA was repeatable and reproducible (ICC lowest bound 0.87), but also provided an improvement over the regression approach (ICC lowest bound 0.69). Furthermore, the analysis of variance revealed a statistically significant variance for the factor "observers" (p<0.01; low-reproducibility) when using the regression approach for determining the femoral lengths. Here, this non-invasive, rapid and robust approach has been demonstrated to allow the repeatable and reproducible identification of skeletal landmarks, which is insensitive to marker placement and measurement session. The reliability of the OSSCA thus allows its application in clinical studies for reducing the uncertainty of approach-induced systematic errors.
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