Objective: To investigate the mechanisms of contracture after stroke by comparing passive mechanical properties of gastrocnemius muscle-tendon units, muscle fascicles, and tendons in people with ankle contracture after stroke with control participants.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Laboratory in a research institution.
Participants: A convenience sample of people with ankle contracture after stroke (n=20) and able-bodied control subjects (n=30).
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Stiffness and lengths of gastrocnemius muscle-tendon units, lengths of muscle fascicles, and tendons at specific tensions.
Results: At a tension of 100N, the gastrocnemius muscle-tendon unit was significantly shorter in participants with stroke (mean, 436mm) than in able-bodied control participants (mean, 444mm; difference, 8mm; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.2-15mm; P=.04). Muscle fascicles were also shorter in the stroke group (mean, 44mm) than in the control group (mean, 50mm; difference, 6mm; 95% CI, 1-12mm; P=.03). There were no significant differences between groups in the mean stiffness or length of the muscle-tendon units and fascicles at low tension, or in the mean length of the tendons at any tension.
Conclusions: People with ankle contracture after stroke have shorter gastrocnemius muscle-tendon units and muscle fascicles than control participants at high tension. This difference is not apparent at low tension.
Copyright © 2012 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.