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Mechanics of walking and running up and downhill: A joint-level perspective to guide design of lower-limb exoskeletons

Citation

Nuckols, Richard et al. (2020), Mechanics of walking and running up and downhill: A joint-level perspective to guide design of lower-limb exoskeletons, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ns1rn8pqc

Abstract

Lower-limb wearable robotic devices can improve clinical gait and reduce energetic demand in healthy populations. To help enable real-world use, we sought to examine how assistance should be applied in variable gait conditions and suggest an approach derived from knowledge of human locomotion mechanics to establish a ‘roadmap’ for wearable robot design. We characterized the changes in joint mechanics during walking and running across a range of incline/decline grades and then provide an analysis that informs the development of lower-limb exoskeletons capable of operating across a range of mechanical demands. We hypothesized that the distribution of limb-joint positive mechanical power would shift to the hip for incline walking and running and that the distribution of limb-joint negative mechanical power would shift to the knee for decline walking and running. Eight subjects (6M,2F) completed five walking (1.25 m s -1 ) trials at -8.53º, -5.71º, 0º, 5.71º, and 8.53º grade and five running (2.25 m s -1 ) trials at -5.71º, -2.86º, 0º, 2.86º, and 5.71º grade on a treadmill. We calculated time-varying joint moment and power output for the ankle, knee, and hip. For each gait, we examined how individual limb-joints contributed to total limb positive, negative and net power across grades. For both walking and running, changes in grade caused a redistribution of joint mechanical power generation and absorption. From level to incline walking, the ankle’s contribution to limb positive power decreased from 44% on the level to 28% at 8.53º uphill grade ( p < 0.0001) while the hip’s contribution increased from 27% to 52% ( p < 0.0001). In running, regardless of the surface gradient, the ankle was consistently the dominant source of lower-limb positive mechanical power (47-55%). In the context of our results, we outline three distinct use-modes that could be emphasized in future lower-limb exoskeleton designs 1) Energy injection: adding positive work into the gait cycle, 2) Energy extraction: removing negative work from the gait cycle, and 3) Energy transfer: extracting energy in one gait phase and then injecting it in another phase (i.e., regenerative braking).