Background: Reduced-stiffness components are often prescribed in lower-limb prostheses, but their efficacy in augmenting shock absorption has been inconclusive. Objectives: To perform a systematic variation of longitudinal prosthetic stiffness over a wide range of values and to evaluate its effect on shock absorption during gait. Study design: Repeated-measures crossover experiment. Methods: Twelve subjects with a unilateral transtibial amputation walked at normal and fast self-selected speeds. Longitudinal prosthetic stiffness was modified by springs within a shock-absorbing pylon: normal (manufacturer recommended), 75% of normal (medium), 50% of normal (soft), and rigid (displacement blocked). The variables of interest were kinematic (stance-phase knee flexion and pelvic obliquity) and kinetic (prosthetic-side ground reaction force loading peak magnitude and timing). Results: No changes were observed in kinematic measures during gait. A significant difference in peak ground reaction force magnitudes between medium and normal (p = 0.001) during freely selected walking was attributed to modified walking speed (p = 0.008). Ground reaction force peaks were found to be statistically different during fast walking, but only between isolated stiffness conditions. Thus, altering longitudinal prosthesis stiffness produced no appreciable change in gait biomechanics. Conclusion: Prosthesis stiffness does not appear to substantially influence shock absorption in transtibial prosthesis users. Clinical relevance: Varying the level of longitudinal prosthesis stiffness did not meaningfully influence gait biomechanics at self-selected walking speeds. Thus, as currently prescribed within a transtibial prosthesis, adding longitudinal stiffness in isolation may not provide the anticipated shock absorption benefits. Further research into residual limb properties and compensatory mechanisms is needed.
- Biomechanics of prosthetic/orthotic devices
- gait analysis
- testing of prosthetic and orthotic components
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Professions (miscellaneous)