Popliteal artery compression and force of active plantar flexion in young healthy volunteers

J Vasc Surg. 1997 Aug;26(2):281-7. doi: 10.1016/s0741-5214(97)70190-3.


Purpose: To define the prevalence of popliteal artery occlusion during active plantar flexion in normally active and highly trained young volunteers by measuring plantar flexion force and to assess the force level associated with popliteal artery occlusion.

Methods: Eighty-four limbs of 42 healthy subjects were studied. Eighteen subjects were highly trained athletes, and 24 were normally active persons. Plantar flexion was progressively performed in prone position against a scale. Plantar flexion force was measured in kilograms. After determination of the maximum strength (Pmax) of plantar flexion force, the level necessary to occlude the popliteal artery (Poccl) was assessed by continuously monitoring that vessel using color duplex sonography.

Results: Occlusion of the popliteal artery during plantar flexion was observed in 88.1% of the subjects and 77.4% of the limbs. No significant differences in prevalence were found between athletes and normally active subjects. The popliteal artery occluded at a mean plantar flexion force of 45.1 +/- 11.5 kg, which corresponded with 70.1% +/- 16.8% of the maximum force exerted during the provocation test. Poccl was not significantly different between lower limbs of athletes and nonathletes. Although in lower limbs of athletes the popliteal artery occluded at a significantly lower relative force as compared with normally active subjects (65.6% +/- 17.4% vs 74.5% +/- 17.4% of Pmax; p < 0.02), the difference was a result of two extremely low values found in a female athlete.

Conclusion: Positional occlusion of the popliteal artery during active plantar flexion is commonly found in young healthy volunteers. Prevalence of the phenomenon depends on the force level exerted during active plantar flexion. Popliteal artery occlusion during active plantar flexion is not more frequent in athletes and occurs at a similar force level than in normally active subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Constriction
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Popliteal Artery / physiology*
  • Posture
  • Prevalence
  • Reference Values
  • Sports