The mental representation of the human gait in patients with severe knee osteoarthrosis: a clinical study to aid understanding of impairment and disability

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Objectives were (1) to explore differences in gait-specific long-term memory structures and gait performance between knee osteoarthrosis patients and healthy subjects and (2) to identify the extent to which the gait-specific mental representation is associated with gait performance.


Cross-sectional study.


In total, 18 knee osteoarthrosis patients and 18 control subjects.


Spatio-temporal (gait speed, step length) and temporophasic (stance time, swing time, single support time, total double support time) gait parameters and gait variability were measured with an electronic walkway (OptoGait). The mental representation was assessed using the structural dimensional analysis of mental representations (SDA-M).


(1) Patients showed significantly longer stance times (P < 0.002) and total double support times, shorter swing times and single support times, a decreased gait speed (P-values < 0.001) and structural differences in the gait-specific mental representation as compared with the healthy controls. (2) Correlation analyses revealed the mental representation of the human gait to be associated with actual gait performance in osteoarthrosis patients. Double support times were positively associated with the structural quality of the mental representation and step length variability was positively associated with the number of sequencing errors in the representation.


The gait-specific mental representation and actual gait performance differ between patients with severe knee osteoarthrosis and healthy controls, and both are linked to one another. This finding suggests that musculoskeletal disorders can lead to changes in the mental representation of the gait, and as such the SDA-M could provide useful information to improve the rehabilitation following osteoarthrosis.

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