Evidence of compensatory joint kinetics during stair ascent and descent in Parkinson’s disease

Zachary J. Conway, Peter A. Silburn, Tim Blackmore, Michael H. Cole

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Background - Stair ambulation is a challenging activity of daily life that requires larger joint moments than walking. Stabilisation of the body and prevention of lower limb collapse during this task depends upon adequately-sized hip, knee and ankle extensor moments. However, people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) often present with strength deficits that may impair their capacity to control the lower limbs and ultimately increase their falls risk.

Objective - To investigate hip, knee and ankle joint moments during stair ascent and descent and determine the contribution of these joints to the body’s support in people with PD.

- Twelve PD patients and twelve age-matched controls performed stair ascent and descent trials. Data from an instrumented staircase and a three-dimensional motion analysis system were used to derive sagittal hip, knee and ankle moments. Support moment impulses were calculated by summing all extensor moment impulses and the relative contribution of each joint was calculated.

- Linear mixed model analyses indicated that PD patients walked slower and had a reduced cadence relative to controls. Although support moment impulses were typically not different between groups during stair ascent or descent, a reduced contribution by the ankle joint required an increased knee joint contribution for the PD patients.

- Despite having poorer knee extensor strength, people with PD rely more heavily on these muscles during stair walking. This adaptation could possibly be driven by the somewhat restricted mobility of this joint, which may provide these individuals with an increased sense of stability during these tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalGait and Posture
Early online date9 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • support moment
  • Parkinson
  • gait
  • balance


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