Characterization of ankle function during stair ambulation

D.H. Gates, J. Lelas, U. Della Croce, H. M. Herr, P. Bonato


The aim of this study was to examine the ankle joint during level walking, stair ascent, and stair descent to determine models for use in the design of prosthetic and orthotic systems. Ten healthy subjects were asked to walk (1) across a level walkway, (2) up, and (3) down an instrumented stairway. Sagittal plane kinematic and kinetic data were analyzed to obtain ankle biomechanics during the stance phase of each task. Each stance phase was broken down into sub-phases based on the power trajectory. The ideal model was taken to be the simplest combination of mechanical elements (springs, dampers, and torque actuators) that could reproduce the patterns observed in ankle biomechanics. Besides, we studied the transitions from level walking to stair ascent and from stair descent to level walking and showed that mechanical elements can be used to model these transitions as well. These results are promising to the design of next generation ankle orthotic and prosthetic systems because they show that relatively simple mechanical elements can be utilized to mimic ankle biomechanics.

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