Individual differences in intrinsic ankle stiffness and their relationship to body sway and ankle torque

Tania E Sakanaka, Martin Lakie, Raymond F Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


When standing, intrinsic ankle stiffness is smaller when measured using large perturbations, when sway size is large, and when background torque is low. However, there is a large variation in individual intrinsic ankle stiffness. Here we determine if individual variation has consequences for postural control. We examined the relationship between ankle stiffness, ankle torque and body sway across different individuals. Ankle stiffness was estimated in 19 standing participants by measuring torque responses to small, brief perturbations. Perturbation sizes of 0.2 & 0.9 degrees (both lasting 140 ms) measured short- and long-range stiffness respectively, while participants either stood quietly on a fixed platform or were imperceptibly tilted to reduce stability (0.1 Hz sinusoid; 0.2 & 0.4 deg). The spontaneous body sway component (natural random relatively rapid postural adjustments) and background ankle torque were averaged from sections immediately before perturbations. The results show that, first, intrinsic ankle stiffness is positively associated with ankle torque, and that this relationship is stronger for long-range stiffness. Second, intrinsic ankle stiffness is negatively associated with body sway, but, in contrast to the relationship with torque, this relationship is stronger for short-range stiffness. We conclude that high short-range intrinsic ankle stiffness is associated with reduced spontaneous sway, although the causal relationship between these two parameters is unknown. These results suggest that, in normal quiet standing where sway is very small, the most important determinant of intrinsic ankle stiffness may be stillness. In less stable conditions, intrinsic ankle stiffness may be more dependent on ankle torque.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0244993
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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