Introduction: The aim of this study was to determine whether muscle fibers innervated by single motor neurons are confined in small subvolumes of the vastus medialis (VM) and if motor unit fiber orientation depends on their position within the muscle. Methods: Single motor units were identified from a grid of surface electrodes. The size of their surface representation and fiber orientation were extracted using an algorithm validated on simulated signals. Results: The action potentials of 77 motor units were represented locally on theskin (10th–90th percentiles: 14–25 mm). According to simulations, this indicates territories smaller than 11.8–64.8 mm. Motor units in distal regions of VM had fibers at a greater angle than those in proximal regions (R 5 –0.54, P < 0.001). Conclusion: Motor units with small territories and varying fiber orientations may be an anatomical predisposition to regulate how regions within VM apply forces to the patella. This could help to redistribute loads within the joint in painful conditions.
- motor unit
- surface EMG