Preswing Knee Flexion Assistance Is Coupled With Hip Abduction in People With Stiff-Knee Gait After Stroke
Background and Purpose— Stiff-knee gait is defined as reduced knee flexion during the swing phase. It is accompanied by frontal plane compensatory movements (eg, circumduction and hip hiking) typically thought to result from reduced toe clearance. As such, we examined if knee flexion assistance before foot-off would reduce exaggerated frontal plane movements in people with stiff-knee gait after stroke.
Methods— We used a robotic knee orthosis to assist knee flexion torque during the preswing phase in 9 chronic stroke subjects with stiff-knee gait on a treadmill and compared peak knee flexion, hip abduction, and pelvic obliquity angles with 5 nondisabled control subjects.
Results— Maximum knee flexion angle significantly increased in both groups, but instead of reducing gait compensations, hip abduction significantly increased during assistance in stroke subjects by 2.5°, whereas no change was observed in nondisabled control subjects. No change in pelvic obliquity was observed in either group.
Conclusions— Hip abduction increased when stroke subjects received assistive knee flexion torque at foot-off. These findings are in direct contrast to the traditional belief that pelvic obliquity combined with hip abduction is a compensatory mechanism to facilitate foot clearance during swing. Because no evidence suggested a voluntary mechanism for this behavior, we argue that these results were most likely a reflection of an altered motor template occurring after stroke.
- Received April 8, 2010.
- Accepted April 27, 2010.