In order to fully understand the relationship between soft-tissue adaptations in human joints and joint loading, the mechanical state of all joint tissues for normal, everyday movement tasks must be known (Herzog et al., 2003). These everyday tasks depend on the modulation of joint stability and stiffness by our neuromuscular control system which determines muscle activation. There is, however, a significant void in the literature describing the role of individual muscles in generating the forces needed to create this stability, even though it is generally accepted that muscles play the leading role in maintaining this stability and modulating joint stiffness to allow for human movement.
My goal is to fill this void by exploring the link between neuromuscular control and joint loading in order to elucidate how the human system controls lower limb stability through muscle activation, how these muscle activations alter joint forces and how joint forces load the soft tissues of the joint.
My research program has complimentary in vivo and in vitro research streams. We use electromyography- (EMG; a measure of muscle activation) driven muscle modeling during static and dynamic tasks to estimate muscle forces in vivo. These force estimates are then integrated into an in vitro testing jig to determine intra-articular pressure and force distribution at the knee. Through this approach we directly measure how muscle forces affect both joint loads and knee stability, thus providing a window for us to develop innovative rehabilitation strategies to improve knee health.