A University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) student is hoping to provide researchers with some critical information about what exactly happens to the muscles and connective tissue in our ankles and feet as we age.
“What we’re going to be doing is using ultrasound to actually look at the connection between the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia,” Patterson said. “The idea is that as you get older that connection gets worse.”
Patterson will look at real time footage of the gastrocnemius, the calf muscle, and the Achilles tendon as patients walk on various levels of incline. He hopes to look at the data from 72 healthy and physically fit patients aged 19 to 79.
Using ultrasound in this capacity is a new and developing technique in the field of biomechanics, Patterson says.
Ultimately, the study will paint a clearer picture of what is happening when we walk and how that changes over time.
“(As you age) you’re not able to translate as much of the force that you have in your calf muscles down into your foot,” Patterson said.
Older adults have issues generating propulsive power at their ankle and into their foot, which leads to less toe clearance and walking speed. Less toe clearance can lead to trips and falls, and slower walking speed can lead to a less active lifestyle.
“If we can identify this as a problem, future research could target that as an intervention to prevent degradation, or exoskeletons could be developed,” Patterson added.
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