Passive mechanical properties of the gastrocnemius after spinal cord injury




In this study we compared passive mechanical properties of gastrocnemius muscle–tendon units, muscle fascicles, and tendons in control subjects and people with ankle contractures after spinal cord injury.


Passive gastrocnemius length–tension curves were derived from passive ankle torque–angle data obtained from 20 spinal cord injured subjects with ankle contractures and 30 control subjects. Ultrasound images of muscle fascicles were used to partition length–tension curves into fascicular and tendinous components.


Spinal cord injured subjects had stiffer gastrocnemius muscle–tendon units (stiffness index: 74.8 ± 27.0 m−1) than control subjects (54.4 ± 17.7 m−1) (P = 0.004). Muscle–tendon slack lengths, as well as slack lengths and changes in length of fascicles and tendons, were similar in the two groups.


People with ankle contractures after spinal cord injury have stiff gastrocnemius muscle–tendon units. It is not clear whether this reflects changes in properties of muscle fascicles or tendons. Muscle Nerve 46: 237–245, 2012