The effects of prosthetic foot stiffness on transtibial amputee walking mechanics and balance control during turning

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Abstract

Background:

Little evidence exists regarding how prosthesis design characteristics affect performance in tasks that challenge mediolateral balance such as turning. This study assesses the influence of prosthetic foot stiffness on amputee walking mechanics and balance control during a continuous turning task.

Methods:

Three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic data were collected from eight unilateral transtibial amputees as they walked overground at self-selected speed clockwise and counterclockwise around a 1-meter circle and along a straight line. Subjects performed the walking tasks wearing three different ankle-foot prostheses that spanned a range of sagittal- and coronal-plane stiffness levels.

Findings:

A decrease in stiffness increased residual ankle dorsiflexion (10–13°), caused smaller adaptations (< 5°) in proximal joint angles, decreased residual and increased intact limb body support, increased residual limb propulsion and increased intact limb braking for all tasks. While changes in sagittal-plane joint work due to decreased stiffness were generally consistent across tasks, effects on coronal-plane hip work were task-dependent. When the residual limb was on the inside of the turn and during straight-line walking, coronal-plane hip work increased and coronal-plane peak-to-peak range of whole-body angular momentum decreased with decreased stiffness.

Interpretation:

Changes in sagittal-plane kinematics and kinetics were similar to those previously observed in straight-line walking. Mediolateral balance improved with decreased stiffness, but adaptations in coronal-plane angles, work and ground reaction force impulses were less systematic than those in sagittal-plane measures. Effects of stiffness varied with the residual limb inside versus outside the turn, which suggests that actively adjusting stiffness to turn direction may be beneficial.

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