Vice-Chancellor's Lecturer in Biomechanics, Loughborough University
Improving injury prevention and rehab by understanding how and why we move as we do
The World Health Organisation currently recommends participation in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on five days per week.; to meet this recommendation, people often take part in walking or running activities. However, with these increased levels of activity, comes increased risk of injury. Long-term ability to walk and run is often the most important outcome measure of success in any injury prevention or rehabilitation programme, whether they are athletic, 'normal', and clinical populations.
My research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanisms of how and why we walk and run the way we do. I work to identify the links between our muscle function, our movement patterns, and how we control these movement patterns. These links are very poorly understood but are essential parts of designing effective physical activity interventions, both to minimise the risk of developing an injury or long-term conditions such as osteoarthritis, but also to optimise the rehabilitation process and make it more cost-effective. Current projects are focused on identifying how the legs respond to alterations in task demand, such as walking and running faster and slower or running to fatigue, establish whether both legs respond in the same way, and determining if these responses are due to alterations in muscle strength capacity or in how the muscle is being controlled by your brain. Upcoming projects are applying these techniques with amputees, to optimise their long-term rehabilitation and care.
Abstract: This review summarizes the effects of bilateral asymmetry on running and cycling performance and risk of injury in healthy subjects and the influence of leg preference. We define the term leg preference derived from lateral preference as representative of the choice for one side of the body to perform a motor action. Useful information is provided for biomechanical and physiological research and coaching with relevance to an understanding regarding the occurrence of lower limb asymmetry.To provide a synopsis of what is known about bilateral asymmetry in human running and cycling and its relationship to limb preference, especially in the context of competitive sport performance and risk of injury.Structured narrative review.The relationship between asymmetry and lower limb preference was reviewed using Medline(®), Sciencedirect(®), and Scopus(®) search engines considering studies published in English until June 2009.The environment characteristics may influence running asymmetries, which are more frequent in angular parameters. Environment characteristics are related to ground irregularities requiring compensatory movements changing the mechanical workload on joints and bones, which may influence asymmetries in biomechanical parameters between lower limbs. The relationship between asymmetry and injury risk should be assessed with caution since running speed may influence asymmetry in injured and non-injured subjects who often show similar asymmetry levels. Symmetry can be improved with increasing running speed. In addition to running speed, coaches and athletes interested in minimizing lateral difference should consider a training regime aimed at correcting asymmetry which may negatively affect running technique by influencing the compensatory movements that an athlete usually performs. During cycling, bilateral differences are frequently found and vary with the competitive situation, pedaling cadence, exercise intensity and exercise duration. Regardless of the variability of asymmetry index between subjects, few suggestions are available to overcome lateral differences. Most of the research suggests that bilateral pedaling asymmetries decrease as the workload increases, however the relationship to injury risk was not clearly addressed. For both running and cycling, few investigations examined the central mechanisms of neuromuscular control, and no study addressed the effect of asymmetry on performance.Collectively, the volume of studies supporting symmetry is small and to a large extent research considered unilateral assessment. Preferred limb performance can differ from the contralateral limb. In the context of biomechanical and physiological investigations, we believe that further studies should address the role of lower limb symmetry on human motor performance and injury risk focusing on the energetic cost, muscle efficiency and the neuromuscular aspects such as muscle activation and motor units firing rate.
Pub.: 09 Nov '10, Pinned: 26 Nov '17