Response of the normal human ankle joint to imposed sinusoidal movements

J Physiol. 1983 Nov;344:483-502. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1983.sp014953.


Ankle joints were subjected to sinusoidal movements at a range of amplitudes and frequencies. Records were made of electromyograms (e.m.g.s) in calf muscles, and of the forces at the joints. When the leg is relaxed, the ankle joint resists an imposed sinusoidal movement with a small approximately sinusoidal force. It is stiffer in its resistance to small movements than to large ones, and this resistance is greater when the joint is dorsiflexed than when it is plantarflexed. If the subject exerts a steady mean flexing force, the imposed sinusoidal movement generates reflex activity which may be recorded as a modulation of the gastrocnemius and soleus e.m.g.s. The e.m.g. response to the sinusoidal movement occurs later in cycles of movement at high than at low frequencies, as one could expect of a reflex pathway that involves a delay. The results suggest that this delay is between 50 and 60 ms, and we conclude that under these circumstances spinal stretch reflexes are playing the important part. The relation of the resisting force to the movement has been displayed as a vector. As the frequency changes, this vector describes the circular path that is characteristic of a system which includes delays or lags; this path enables one to draw conclusions about the amplitude and timing of the reflex resistance to the movement. When a subject exerts a moderate flexing force against the sinusoidal movement for some minutes, the reflex response becomes progressively potentiated. A subject whose reflex responses are normally slight may then exhibit a vigorous reflex response to the movement of that ankle. This enhancement of spinal reflex activity was accompanied by an increase in the myotatic reflex response at the ankle. Reflex responses to sinusoidal movement were most clearly seen when the subject exerted a mean flexing force that amounted to about one-fifth of his maximum. Very small movements (+/- 0.5 degrees) generated little or no reflex response. With large amplitudes of movement there was more reflex activity, but at some amplitude (which varied from subject to subject and from time to time) the reflex mechanism appeared to 'saturate', and further increases in amplitude were not accompanied by comparable increases in the reflex response. With movements at 10-15 Hz the e.m.g. response often became large in alternate cycles, with less activity in the intervening cycles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement*
  • Reflex, Stretch
  • Time Factors