Passive mechanical properties of gastrocnemius muscles of people with ankle contracture after stroke

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jul;93(7):1185-90. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.02.009. Epub 2012 Feb 25.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ankle Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Ankle Joint / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Contracture / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contracture / etiology
  • Contracture / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal*
  • Reference Values
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Torque
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler