EC Kuska, KM Steele (2024) “Does crouch alter the effects of neuromuscular impairments on gait? A simulation study”

Journal Article in Journal of Biomechanics

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurologic injury that impacts control of movement. Individuals with CP also often develop secondary impairments like weakness and contracture. Both altered motor control and secondary impairments influence how an individual walks after neurologic injury. However, understanding the complex interactions between and relative effects of these impairments makes analyzing and improving walking capacity in CP challenging.

A sagittal-plane musculoskeletal model and neuromuscular simulation framework that tracked average nondisabled (ND) kinematics and moderate and severe crouch gait. The model contains nine degrees-of-freedom (pelvic tilt and translation, and right and left hip, knee, and ankle flexion) actuated by eight Hill-type musculotendinous units per leg. The objective function minimized deviations from tracked kinematics and the sum of muscle activations squared (a2). We perturbed each gait simulation with multi-modal neuromuscular impairments—altered control, weakness, and contracture—of varying severities. Altered control was simulated by reducing the number of fixed synergies controlling each leg, and weakness and contracture were simulated by reducing a muscle’s maximum isometric force ( ) and tendon slack length ( ), respectively. A Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART) model then predicted resultant a2 from the simulated neuromuscular impairments for crouch and ND gait to evaluate the relative effects of each simulated neuromuscular impairment on the muscle activations required to maintain each gait pattern.Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate the interactions between neuromuscular impairments and gait in CP.

Methods: We used a sagittal-plane musculoskeletal model and neuromuscular control framework to simulate crouch and nondisabled gait. We perturbed each simulation by varying the number of synergies controlling each leg (altered control), and imposed weakness and contracture. A Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART) model was also used to parse the relative effects of each impairment on the muscle activations required for each gait pattern.

Results: By using these simulations to evaluate gait-pattern specific effects of neuromuscular impairments, we identified some advantages of crouch gait. For example, crouch tolerated 13 % and 22 % more plantarflexor weakness than nondisabled gait without and with altered control, respectively. Furthermore, BART demonstrated that plantarflexor weakness had twice the effect on total muscle activity required during nondisabled gait than crouch gait. However, crouch gait was also disadvantageous in the presence of vasti weakness: crouch gait increased the effects of vasti weakness on gait without and with altered control.

Interpretation: These simulations highlight gait-pattern specific effects and interactions between neuromuscular impairments. Utilizing computational techniques to understand these effects can elicit advantages of gait deviations, providing insight into why individuals may select their gait pattern and possible interventions to improve energetics.

ASB 2023 Recap

Charlotte is wearing a striped dress and black blazer standing in front of her poster at ASB.Four members of our lab – Kat, Elijah, Charlotte, & Mackenzie – attended ASB 2023 on August 8-11 in Knoxville, TN.

Elijah Kuska gave a podium presentation on “The effects of weakness, contracture, and altered control on walking energetics during crouch gait.”

Charlotte Caskey gave a poster presentation on “The effect of increased sensory feedback from neuromodulation and exoskeleton use on ankle co-contraction in children with cerebral palsy.”

Kat Steele co-hosted a workshop on “Writing a Successful NIH R01 Proposal.”

ASB 2024 will be hosted August 5-8, in Madison, WI.



Elijah is wearing a striped polo shirt and giving a presentation in front of a group of people at ASB.

EE Bulter, KM Steele, L Torburn, JG Gamble, J Rose (2016) “Clinical motion analyses over eight consecutive years in a child with crouch gait: a case report.” Journal of Medical Case Reports

Sagittal-plane images of child from 6-13 years of age.

Journal article in the Journal of Medical Case Reports:

A case study of crouch gait over 8-years in a child with no surgical interventions.

Sagittal-plane images of child from 6-13 years of age.

Background: This case report provides a unique look at the progression of crouch gait in a child with cerebral palsy over an 8-year time period, through annual physical examinations, three-dimensional gait analyses, and evaluation of postural balance. Our patient received regular botulinum toxin-A injections, casting, and physical therapy but no surgical interventions.

Case presentation: A white American boy with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy was evaluated annually by clinical motion analyses, including physical examination, joint kinematics, electromyography, energy expenditure, and standing postural balance tests, from 6 to 13 years of age. These analyses revealed that the biomechanical factors contributing to our patient’s crouch gait were weak plantar flexors, short and spastic hamstrings, moderately short hip flexors, and external rotation of the tibiae. Despite annual recommendations for surgical lengthening of the hamstrings, the family opted for non-surgical treatment through botulinum toxin-A injections, casting, and exercise. Our patient’s crouch gait improved between ages 6 and 9, then worsened at age 10, concurrent with his greatest body mass index, increased plantar flexor weakness, increased standing postural sway, slowest normalized walking speed, and greatest walking energy expenditure. Although our patient’s maximum knee extension in stance improved by 14 degrees at 13 years of age compared to 6 years of age, peak knee flexion in swing declined, his ankles became more dorsiflexed, his hips became more internally rotated, and his tibiae became more externally rotated. From 6 to 9 years of age, our patient’s minimum stance-phase knee flexion varied in an inverse relationship with his body mass index; from 10 to 13 years of age, changes in his minimum stance-phase knee flexion paralleled changes in his body mass index.

Conclusions: The motor deficits of weakness, spasticity, shortened muscle-tendon lengths, and impaired selective motor control were highlighted by our patient’s clinical motion analyses. Overall, our patient’s crouch gait improved mildly with aggressive non-operative management and a supportive family dedicated to regular home exercise. The annual clinical motion analyses identified changes in motor deficits that were associated with changes in the child’s walking pattern, suggesting that these analyses can serve to track the progression of children with spastic cerebral palsy.