Nervous System Excitability And Joint Stiffness Following Short-Term Dynamic Ankle Immobilization

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alan Needle Ph.D., Assistant Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Joint immobilization has been demonstrated to modify neural excitability in subsets of healthy populations, leading to disinhibition of cortical and reflexive pathways. However, these findings may have limited clinical application as most models have investigated casting and rigid immobilization, while many musculoskeletal injuries often utilize dynamic immobilization devices such as boot immobilizers and pneumatic splints that allow for modified ambulation. We therefore aimed to determine the short-term effects of ambulation in ankle immobilization devices on nervous system excitability and stiffness in able-bodied individuals. A repeated-measures design was implemented where 12 healthy individuals were tested for cortical excitability to the ankle musculature using transcranial magnetic stimulation, reflexive excitability using the Hoffmann reflex, and ankle joint stiffness using arthrometry before and after 30 min of ambulation with a boot immobilizer, pneumatic leg splint, or barefoot. Motor evoked potential (MEP), cortical silent period (CSP), Hmax to Mmax ratio, and ankle joint displacement were extracted as dependent variables. Results indicated that despite the novel motor demands of walking in immobilization devices, no significant changes in cortical excitability (F =0.335,P =0.169), reflexive excitability (F= 0.027, P= 0.083), or joint stiffness (F =0.558, P=0.169) occurred. These findings indicate that short-term ambulation in dynamic immobilization devices does not modify neural excitability despite forced constraints on the sensorimotor system. We may therefore conclude that modifications to neural excitability in previous immobilization models are mediated by long-term nervous system plasticity rather than acute mechanisms, and there appear to be no robust changes in corticomotor or spinal excitability acutely posed by ambulation with immobilization devices.

Additional Information

Alyssa M. Stirling, Jeffrey M. McBride, Edward K. Merritt, Alan R. Needle (2018). Nervous system excitability and joint stiffness following short-term dynamic ankle immobilization, Gait & Posture, Volume 59, 2018, Pages 46-52. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2018
Corticospinal excitability, Motor learning, Joint loading, Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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