Original research| Volume 97, ISSUE 4, P528-535, April 2016

Motor Planning for Loading During Gait in Subacute Stroke

Published:November 26, 2015DOI:



      To determine the characteristics of motor planning surrounding initial contact during gait through examination of thigh muscle timing, amplitude, and co-contraction of the paretic and nonparetic limbs in people poststroke, and to investigate whether muscle timing, amplitude, and clinical performance measures of balance and mobility differ based on the level of co-contraction.


      Observational study.


      University-based research laboratory.


      Individuals (n=27) in the subacute phase after stroke and healthy controls (n=8) (N=35).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Timing (onset and offset) and normalized amplitude (percent electromyography maximum) of the biceps femoris (BF) and rectus femoris (RF) muscles were measured during terminal swing and early stance. A co-contraction index (CCI) was calculated for the BF and RF muscle activity. Individuals with CCI values equal to or below the mean of the healthy group were in the low CCI group, whereas those with values above the mean were in the high CCI group. Functional balance and mobility evaluation used the Community Balance and Mobility Scale (CB&M).


      For the paretic and nonparetic limbs, measures of timing, amplitude, and co-contraction were similar for both limbs. Compared with the healthy group, the high CCI group had lower CB&M scores, longer durations, and higher levels of RF and BF muscle activity, whereas the low CCI group had electromyographic measures statistically similar to healthy controls.


      The motor control of gait after subacute stroke is characterized by symmetry of timing and amplitude of muscle recruitment at the knee. High co-contraction levels surrounding the knee were associated with lower functional balance and mobility. These findings suggest a compensatory strategy of increased co-contraction in those with more impairment while maintaining symmetry of lower-limb biomechanics between limbs.


      List of abbreviations:

      ANOVA (analysis of variance), BF (biceps femoris), CB&M (Community Balance and Mobility Scale), CCI (co-contraction index), CMSA (Chedoke-McMaster Stroke Assessment), iEMG (integrated electromyography), RF (rectus femoris)
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