Estimation of quasi-stiffness of the human knee in the stance phase of walking

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59993. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059993. Epub 2013 Mar 22.


Biomechanical data characterizing the quasi-stiffness of lower-limb joints during human locomotion is limited. Understanding joint stiffness is critical for evaluating gait function and designing devices such as prostheses and orthoses intended to emulate biological properties of human legs. The knee joint moment-angle relationship is approximately linear in the flexion and extension stages of stance, exhibiting nearly constant stiffnesses, known as the quasi-stiffnesses of each stage. Using a generalized inverse dynamics analysis approach, we identify the key independent variables needed to predict knee quasi-stiffness during walking, including gait speed, knee excursion, and subject height and weight. Then, based on the identified key variables, we used experimental walking data for 136 conditions (speeds of 0.75-2.63 m/s) across 14 subjects to obtain best fit linear regressions for a set of general models, which were further simplified for the optimal gait speed. We found R(2) > 86% for the most general models of knee quasi-stiffnesses for the flexion and extension stages of stance. With only subject height and weight, we could predict knee quasi-stiffness for preferred walking speed with average error of 9% with only one outlier. These results provide a useful framework and foundation for selecting subject-specific stiffness for prosthetic and exoskeletal devices designed to emulate biological knee function during walking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Walking / physiology*

Grant support

1. US Defense Medical Research Development Program, contract #W81XWH-11-2-0054, 2. US Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center, contract #W911NF-07-D-0001. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.