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Keywords:

  • locomotion;
  • biomechanics;
  • bone strain;
  • electromyography;
  • sonomicrometry;
  • turtle

ABSTRACT

During terrestrial locomotion, limb muscles must generate mechanical work and stabilize joints against the ground reaction force. These demands can require high force production that imposes substantial loads on limb bones. To better understand how muscle contractile function influences patterns of bone loading in terrestrial locomotion, and refine force platform equilibrium models used to estimate limb bone safety factors, we correlated in vivo recordings of femoral strain with muscle activation and strain in a major propulsive hindlimb muscle, flexor tibialis internus (FTI), of a species with a published model of hindlimb force production (river cooter turtles, Pseudemys concinna). Electromyography (EMG) recordings indicate FTI activity prior to footfall that continues through approximately 50% of the stance phase. Large EMG bursts occur just after footfall when the muscle has reached its maximum length and is beginning to actively shorten, concurrent with increasing compressive strain on the anterior femur. The FTI muscle shortens through 35% of stance, with mean fascicle shortening strains reaching 14.0 ± 5.4% resting length (L0). At the time of peak compressive strains on the femur, the muscle fascicles remain active, but fascicles typically lengthen until mid-stance as the knee extends. Influenced by the activity of the dorsal knee extensor femorotibialis, the FTI muscle continues to passively lengthen simultaneously with knee extension and a shift to tensile axial strain on the anterior femur at approximately 40% of stance. The near coincidence in timing of peak compressive bone strain and peak muscle shortening (5.4 ± 4.1% stance) indicates a close correlation between the action of the hip extensor/knee flexor, FTI, and femoral loading in the cooter hindlimb. In the context of equilibrium models of limb bone loading, these results may help explain differences in safety factor estimates observed between previous force platform and in vivo strain analyses in cooters. J. Morphol. 274:1060–1069, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.