It has been reported that the elderly use co-contraction of the tibialis anterior (TA) and plantarflexor muscles for longer duration during quiet standing than the young. However, the particular role of ankle muscle co-contractions in the elderly during quiet standing remains unclear. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the association between ankle muscle co-contractions and postural steadiness during standing in the elderly. Twenty-seven young (27.2 ± 4.5 yrs) and twenty-three elderly (66.2 ± 5.0 yrs) subjects were asked to stand quietly on a force plate for five trials. The center of pressure (COP) trajectory and its velocity (COPv) as well as the center of mass (COM) trajectory and its velocity (COMv) and acceleration (ACC) were calculated using the force plate outputs. Electromyograms were obtained from the right TA, soleus (SOL), and medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscles. Periods of TA activity (TAon) and inactivity (TAoff) were determined using an EMG threshold based on TA resting level. Our results indicate that, in the elderly, the COPv, COMv, and ACC variability were significantly larger during TAon periods compared to TAoff periods. However, in the young, no significant association between respective variability and TA activity was found. We conclude that ankle muscle co-contractions in the elderly are not associated with an increase, but a decrease in postural steadiness. Future studies are needed to clarify the causal relationship between (1) ankle muscle co-contractions and (2) joint stiffness and multi-segmental actions during standing as well as their changes with aging.
- Center of mass
- Center of pressure
- Muscle activity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine