Three-dimensional ankle moments and nonlinear summation of rat triceps surae muscles

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 31;9(10):e111595. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111595. eCollection 2014.


The Achilles tendon and epimuscular connective tissues mechanically link the triceps surae muscles. These pathways may cause joint moments exerted by each muscle individually not to sum linearly, both in magnitude and direction. The aims were (i) to assess effects of sagittal plane ankle angle (varied between 150° and 70°) on isometric ankle moments, in both magnitude and direction, exerted by active rat triceps surae muscles, (ii) to assess ankle moment summation between those muscles for a range of ankle angles and (iii) to assess effects of sagittal plane ankle angle and muscle activation on Achilles tendon length. At each ankle angle, soleus (SO) and gastrocnemius (GA) muscles were first excited separately to assess ankle-angle moment characteristics and subsequently both muscles were excited simultaneously to investigate moment summation. The magnitude of ankle moment exerted by SO and GA, the SO direction in the transverse and sagittal planes, and the GA direction in the transverse plane were significantly affected by ankle angle. SO moment direction in the frontal and sagittal planes were significantly different from that of GA. Nonlinear magnitude summation varied between 0.6±2.9% and -3.6±2.9%, while the nonlinear direction summation varied between 0.3±0.4° and -0.4±0.7° in the transverse plane, between 0.5±0.4° and 0.1±0.4° in the frontal plane, and between 3.0±7.9° and 0.3±2.3° in the sagittal plane. Changes in tendon length caused by SO contraction were significantly lower than those during contraction of GA and GA+SO simultaneously. Thus, moments exerted by GA and SO sum nonlinearly both in the magnitude and direction. The limited degree of nonlinear summation may be explained by different mechanisms acting in opposite directions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / physiology
  • Animals
  • Ankle / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiology

Grant support

Work supported by the Division for Earth and Life Sciences of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research [864-10-011]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.