Impact testing of the residual limb: System response to changes in prosthetic stiffness

Erin Boutwell*, Rebecca Stine, Steven Gard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Currently, it is unknown whether changing prosthetic limb stiffness affects total limb stiffness and/or influences the shock absorption of an individual with transtibial amputation. The hypotheses tested within this study are that a decrease in longitudinal prosthetic stiffness will produce (1) reduced total limb stiffness and (2) reduced magnitude of peak impact forces and increased time delay to peak force. Fourteen subjects with a transtibial amputation participated in this study. Prosthetic stiffness was modified by means of a shock-absorbing pylon that provides reduced longitudinal stiffness through compression of a helical spring within the pylon. A sudden loading evaluation device was built to examine changes in limb loading mechanics during a sudden impact event. No significant change was found in the peak force magnitude or timing of the peak force between prosthetic limb stiffness conditions. Total limb stiffness estimates ranged from 14.9 to 17.9 kN/m but were not significantly different between conditions. Thus, the prosthetic-side total limb stiffness was unaffected by changes in prosthetic limb stiffness. The insensitivity of the total limb stiffness to prosthetic stiffness may be explained by the mechanical characteristics (i.e., stiffness and damping) of the anatomical tissue within the residual limb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rehabilitation Research and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Artificial limbs
  • Elasticity
  • Impact loading
  • Lowerlimb
  • Mechanical stress
  • Prosthesis
  • Residual limb
  • Shock
  • Stiffness
  • Transmission
  • Transtibial amputee

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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