Interacting effects of AFO stiffness, neutral angle and footplate stiffness on gait in case of plantarflexor weakness: A predictive simulation study

N. F.J. Waterval*, M. A. Brehm, K. Veerkamp, T. Geijtenbeek, J. Harlaar, F. Nollet, M. M. van der Krogt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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To maximize effects of dorsal leaf ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) on gait in people with bilateral plantarflexor weakness, the AFO properties should be matched to the individual. However, how AFO properties interact regarding their effect on gait function is unknown. We studied the interaction of AFO bending stiffness with neutral angle and footplate stiffness on the effect of bending stiffness on walking energy cost, gait kinematics and kinetics in people with plantarflexor weakness by employing predictive simulations. Our simulation framework consisted of a planar 11 degrees of freedom model, containing 11 muscles activated by a reflex-based neuromuscular controller. The controller was optimized by a comprehensive cost function, predominantly minimizing walking energy cost. The AFO bending and footplate stiffness were modelled as torsional springs around the ankle and metatarsal joint. The neutral angle of the AFO was defined as the angle in the sagittal plane at which the moment of the ankle torsional spring was zero. Simulations without AFO and with AFO for 9 bending stiffnesses (0–14 Nm/degree), 3 neutral angles (0–3-6 degrees dorsiflexion) and 3 footplate stiffnesses (0–0.5–2.0 Nm/degree) were performed. When changing neutral angle towards dorsiflexion, a higher AFO bending stiffness minimized energy cost of walking and normalized joint kinematics and kinetics. Footplate stiffness mainly affected MTP joint kinematics and kinetics, while no systematic and only marginal effects on energy cost were found. In conclusion, the interaction of the AFO bending stiffness and neutral angle in bilateral plantarflexor weakness, suggests that these should both be considered together when matching AFO properties to the individual patient.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111730
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Innovative Medical Device Initiative (IMDI) Grant 104022003 from ZonMw, the Netherlands, Organisation for Health Research and Development.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)


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