Quadriceps Impairment Is Associated with Gait Mechanics in Young Adults with Obesity

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PurposeObesity influences gait and muscle function, which may contribute to knee osteoarthritis. This study aimed 1) to compare gait biomechanics and quadriceps function between individuals with and without obesity and 2) to examine the association between quadriceps function and gait biomechanics.MethodsForty-eight individuals with and 48 without obesity participated and were matched on age and sex. Gait biomechanics at standardized and self-selected speeds were used to assess peak vertical ground reaction force (vGRF), vertical loading rate (vLR), internal knee extension moment (KEM), peak knee flexion angle (KFA), knee flexion excursion (KFE), and knee joint stiffness. Quadriceps function was assessed using peak isometric strength (peak torque), early (RTD100) and late (RTD200) rate of torque development (RTD), and vastus lateralis cross-sectional area (CSA) and echo intensity (EI).ResultsWhen normalized to fat-free mass, individuals with obesity had lower RTD100 (P = 0.04) and RTD200 (P = 0.02) but higher vastus lateralis CSA (P < 0.01) and EI (P < 0.01) compared with normal weight controls. The group–speed interaction was significant for normalized vGRF (P < 0.01), normalized vLR (P = 0.02), normalized KEM (P = 0.03), and normalized knee joint stiffness (P = 0.02). Post hoc analyses indicate a smaller normalized vGRF and normalized KEM, and lower knee joint stiffness in individuals with obesity compared with normal weight controls at self-selected speed. There were main effects of speed for all kinematic and kinetic variables, and body mass index group for all absolute kinetic variables as well as normalized vGRF (all P < 0.001). A lower vastus lateralis EI (P = 0.04) and greater RTD100 (P < 0.01) were associated with a larger KEM in individuals with obesity.ConclusionIndividuals with obesity have quadriceps dysfunction that is weakly associated with KEM during walking. Exercise interventions that improve quadriceps function may improve walking mechanics.

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