Automatic tracking of medial gastrocnemius fascicle length during human locomotion

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Cronin, Neil J
Carty, Christopher P
Barrett, Rod S
Lichtwark, Glen
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During human locomotion lower extremity muscle-tendon units undergo cyclic length changes that were previously assumed to be representative of muscle fascicle length changes. Measurements in cats and humans have since revealed that muscle fascicle length changes can be uncoupled from those of the muscle-tendon unit. Ultrasonography is frequently used to estimate fascicle length changes during human locomotion. Fascicle length analysis requires time consuming manual methods that are prone to human error and experimenter bias. To bypass these limitations, we have developed an automatic fascicle tracking method based on the Lucas-Kanade optical flow algorithm with an affine optic flow extension. The aims of this study were to compare gastrocnemius fascicle length changes during locomotion using the automated and manual approaches and to determine the repeatability of the automated approach. Ultrasound was used to examine gastrocnemius fascicle lengths in eight participants walking at 4, 5, 6, and 7 km/h and jogging at 7 km/h on a treadmill. Ground reaction forces and three dimensional kinematics were recorded simultaneously. The level of agreement between methods and the repeatability of the automated method were quantified using the coefficient of multiple correlation (CMC). Regardless of speed, the level of agreement between methods was high, with overall CMC values of 0.90 ᠰ.09 (95% CI: 0.86-0.95). Repeatability of the algorithm was also high, with an overall CMC of 0.88 ᠰ.08 (95% CI: 0.79-0.96). The automated fascicle tracking method presented here is a robust, reliable, and time-efficient alternative to the manual analysis of muscle fascicle length during gait.

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Journal of Applied Physiology
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