External biomechanical constraints impair maximal voluntary grip force stability post-stroke


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Abstract

Background:Grip strength is frequently measured as a global indicator of motor function. In clinical populations, such as hemiparesis post-stroke, grip strength is associated with upper-extremity motor impairment, function, and ability to execute activities of daily living. However, biomechanical configuration of the distal arm and hand may influence the magnitude and stability of maximal voluntary grip force and varies across studies. The influence of distal arm/hand biomechanical configuration on grip force remains unclear. Here we investigated how biomechanical configuration of the distal arm/hand influence the magnitude and trial-to-trial variability of maximal grip force performed in similar positions with variations in external constraint.Methods:We studied three groups of 20 individuals: healthy young, healthy older, and individuals post-stroke. We tested maximal voluntary grip force in 4 conditions: 1: self-determined/“free”; 2: standard; 3: fixed arm-rest; 4: gripper fixed to arm-rest, using an instrumented grip dynamometer in both dominant/non-dominant and non-paretic/paretic hands.Findings:Regardless of hand or group, maximal voluntary grip force was highest when the distal limb was most constrained (i.e., Condition 4), followed by the least constrained (i.e., Condition 1) (Cohen's f=0.52, P's<0.001). Coefficient of variation among three trials was greater in the paretic hand compared with healthy individuals, particularly in more (Conditions 3 and 4) compared to less (Conditions 1 and 2) constrained conditions (Cohen's f=0.29, P's<0.05).Interpretation:These findings have important implications for design of rehabilitation interventions and devices. Particularly in individuals post-stroke, external biomechanical constraints increase maximal voluntary grip force variability while fewer biomechanical constraints yield more stable performance.HIGHLIGHTSWe investigated how external limb positioning constraints influence grip force.Independent of group, grip force is highest when the distal arm is most constrained.Trial-to-trial variability of grip force is greater in the paretic hand post-stroke.Paretic hand grip force is less stable in the presence of external constraints.These findings inform design of clinical rehabilitation interventions and devices.

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