The human iliotibial band (ITB) is a poorly understood fascial structure that may contribute to energy savings during locomotion. This study evaluated the capacity of the ITB to store and release elastic energy during running, at speeds ranging from 2-5m/s, using a model that characterizes the three-dimensional musculoskeletal geometry of the human lower limb and the force-length properties of the ITB, tensor fascia lata (TFL), and gluteus maximus (GMax). The model was based on detailed analyses of muscle architecture, dissections of 3-D anatomy, and measurements of the muscles' moment arms about the hip and knee in five cadaveric specimens. The model was used, in combination with measured joint kinematics and published EMG recordings, to estimate the forces and corresponding strains in the ITB during running. We found that forces generated by TFL and GMax during running stretch the ITB substantially, resulting in energy storage. Anterior and posterior regions of the ITB muscle-tendon units (MTUs) show distinct length change patterns, in part due to different moment arms at the hip and knee. The posterior ITB MTU likely stores more energy than the anterior ITB MTU because it transmits larger muscle forces. We estimate that the ITB stores about 1J of energy per stride during slow running and 7J during fast running, which represents approximately 14% of the energy stored in the Achilles tendon at a comparable speed. This previously unrecognized mechanism for storing elastic energy may be an adaptation to increase human locomotor economy.
Keywords: Elastic energy storage; Fascia; Iliotibial band; Musculoskeletal modeling.
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