Contributions to leg stiffness in high- compared with low-arched athletes


Purpose High-arched (HA) athletes exhibit greater lower extremity stiffness during functional tasks than low-arched (LA) athletes. The contributions of skeletal and muscular structures to stiffness may underlie the distinct injury patterns observed in these athletes. The purpose of this study was to compare skeletal and muscular contributions to leg stiffness in HA and LA athletes during running and landing tasks. Methods Ten HA and 10 LA female athletes performed five overground running trials at a self-selected pace and five step off bilateral landing trials from a height of 30 cm. Three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics were collected using a motion capture system and a force platform. Leg stiffness and its skeletal and muscular contributions were calculated. Independent t-tests were used to compare variable means between arch type groups and Cohen's d were computed to assess effect sizes of mean differences. Results In running, HA athletes had greater leg stiffness (P = 0.010, d = 1.03) and skeletal stiffness (P = 0.016, d = 0.81), although there are no differences in muscular stiffness (P = 0.134). During landing, HA had greater leg stiffness (P = 0.015, d = 1.06) and skeletal stiffness (P < 0.001, d = 1.84), whereas LA athletes had greater muscular stiffness (P = 0.025, d = 0.96). Conclusions These findings demonstrate that HA athletes place a greater reliance on skeletal structures for load attenuation during running and landing, whereas LA athletes rely more greatly on muscle contributions during landing only. These findings may provide insight into the distinct injury patterns observed in HA and LA athletes.

Publication Title

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise