Limited mechanical effects of intermuscular myofascial connections within the intact rat anterior crural compartment, 2016

Topics: Tibialis anterior, Extensor digitorum longus, 3D kinetics, Co-activation, Mechanical interaction

Authors: Chris Tijs, Jaap H van Dieën, Huub Maas


Skeletal muscles of the rat anterior crural compartment are mechanically connected by epimuscular myofascial connections, but the relevance for mechanical muscle function within physiological ranges of joint motion is unclear. We evaluated the net effect at the ankle joint of epimuscular myofascial connections between tibialis anterior (TA) and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles in the rat (n=8) and determined which anatomical structures may mediate such epimuscular mechanical interactions. We assessed (1) effects of knee angle (i.e. changes in EDL length and position relative to TA) and interactions of knee angle with fasciotomy and proximal EDL tenotomy on TA ankle moment and (2) the effect of knee angle on TA and EDL ankle moment summation. Knee angle was varied between 60° and 130°. Ankle angle was kept constant (90°). TA and EDL were excited individually and simultaneously (TA&EDL). The mathematical sum of individual TA and EDL moments was compared with the moment exerted by TA&EDL to assess the extent of non-additive ankle moment summation. Magnitude of TA ankle moment was not affected by knee angle, but frontal plane moment direction was. However, dissections indicated that this was not caused by the compartmental fascia or EDL length changes. Moment summation was non-additive in magnitude (+1.1±1.1% mean±s.d.) and frontal plane direction. The latter was affected by knee angle and ranged from +0.2±0.3° at 60° to +1.1±0.6° at 130°. As the net effects found were very limited, we conclude that myofascial connections between muscles in the anterior crural compartment have limited mechanical relevance during normal movement.

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