The effect of isolated gastrocnemius contracture and gastrocnemius recession on lower extremity kinematics and kinetics during stance

Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2012 Nov;27(9):917-23. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2012.06.010. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


Background: Isolated gastrocnemius contracture limits ankle dorsiflexion with full knee extension and is potentially problematic during mid-stance of gait when 10° of dorsiflexion and full knee extension are needed. It is during this time that patients with isolated gastrocnemius contracture may demonstrate altered kinematics and/or kinetics. When conservative management fails to resolve painful foot pathologies associated with non-spastic isolated gastrocnemius contracture, gastrocnemius recession surgery has been suggested to resolve contracture and improve function and strength. However, there are no published reports on lower extremity kinematics/kinetics in the non-spastic isolated gastrocnemius contracture population. Assessment of alterations in gait mechanics is necessary to examine the effects of this potential surgical intervention.

Methods: Lower extremity kinematics and kinetics were assessed in 6 patients clinically diagnosed with isolated gastrocnemius contracture pre- and post-surgical recession compared with 33 healthy control participants.

Findings: Pre-operatively, patients with isolated gastrocnemius contracture demonstrated significantly increased peak knee flexion angles and knee flexion moments during mid-stance. There were no differences in peak ankle dorsiflexion angle or peak plantar flexion moment. Gastrocnemius recession did not alter gait kinematics/kinetics following surgery. Joint kinematic strategies utilized to compensate for isolated gastrocnemius contracture varied minimally between participants with IGC; most employed a flexed knee strategy, while one participant utilized a reduced ankle dorsiflexion strategy.

Interpretation: Select post-surgical gait mechanics were unaltered; however, gait mechanics were not similar between non-spastic isolated gastrocnemius contracture patients and healthy control participants. Surgical intervention for patients with isolated gastrocnemius contracture does not appear to create any negative gait adaptations; however, patients may benefit from gait retraining post-recession as maladaptive gait patterns persist post operatively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle Joint / physiopathology*
  • Contracture / physiopathology*
  • Contracture / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Postural Balance
  • Posture*
  • Range of Motion, Articular*