Walking Speed Does Not Affect Net Vastus Lateralis Fascicle Length Change on Average During Weight Acceptance
Amanda E. Munsch, Brian Pietrosimone, Jason R. Franz
Faster walking speeds increase the demand on quadriceps muscles to produce adequate force to decelerate body mass and control knee flexion. Quadriceps fascicle behavior (i.e., fascicle lengthen changes influences force generation, which in turn affects mechanical loading of the articular cartilage during walking and the biochemical environment of the knee joint. The fascicle behavior underlying different walking speeds remains unclear but should be characterized to better understand how the quadriceps muscles accommodate faster walking speeds, speeds that often associate with better cartilage health outcomes. Our purpose was to quantify quadriceps muscle net fascicle behavior during weight acceptance across a range of walking speeds in the context of more well-documented changes in muscle activity and knee joint moments. We hypothesized that vastus lateralis (VL) fascicles in healthy young adults would produce force with more overall lengthening in early stance at faster walking speeds with concomitant increases in muscle-tendon unit (MTU) lengthening, internal peak knee extensor moment (pKEM), vertical ground reaction force (GRF), and muscle activity. Participants walked for two-minute trials at their preferred speed and at 0.75 m/s and 1.75 m/s. We find that on average the VL accommodates the greater mechanical demands of walking at faster speeds with greater muscle activity and while resisting muscle lengthening behavior. We infer that tendon stretch accommodates MTU lengthening in healthy young adults across a range of speeds and suggest these results motivate additional studies aimed at evaluating VL fascicle behavior individuals with known quadriceps strength deficits, inhibition, or heightened risk for developing osteoarthritis.