Functional asymmetry is an idea that is often used to explain documented bilateral asymmetries during able-bodied gait. Within this context, this idea suggests that the non-dominant and dominant legs, considered as whole entities, contribute asymmetrically to support and propulsion during walking. The degree of functional asymmetry may depend upon walking speed. The purpose of this study was to better understand a potential relationship between functional asymmetry and walking speed. We measured bilateral ground reaction forces (GRF) for 20 healthy subjects who walked at nine different speeds: preferred, +10%, +20%, +30%, +40%, -10%, -20%, -30%, and -40%. Contribution to support was determined to be the support impulse: the time integral of vertical GRF during stance. Contribution to propulsion was determined to be the propulsion impulse: the time integral of the anterior-posterior GRF, while this force was directed forward. Repeated measures ANOVA (α = 0.05) revealed leg × speed interactions for normalized support (p = 0.001) and propulsion (p = 0.001) impulses, indicating that speed does affect the degree of functional asymmetry during gait. Post hoc comparisons (α = 0.05) showed that support impulse was approximately 2% greater for the dominant leg, relative to the non-dominant leg, for the -10%, -20%, and -40% speeds. Propulsion impulse was 12% greater for the dominant leg than for the non-dominant leg at the +20% speed. Speed does appear to affect the magnitude of bilateral asymmetry during walking, however, only the bilateral difference for propulsion impulse at one fast speed (+20%) supported the functional asymmetry idea.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_rice/144/