Novel Honours Study Validates Reports of Muscular Imbalances in the Elderly
A novel study conducted as an Honours project by Sport Sciences (Biokinetics) student, Casey de Koning, was recently published in the African Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance and presented at the College of Health Sciences Research Symposium. The paper was published just two months after De Koning graduated at UKZN.
The study examined the impact of an anteriorly tilted pelvis (ATP) on elderly individuals’ ability to complete the sit-to-stand movement (STSM) after anecdotal reports suggested that those who had ATP experienced difficulty in completing the movement.
Over 100 senior citizens residing at an Association for the Aged (TAFTA) facility participated in the study investigating the force-couple relationship of biceps femoris and rectus femoris involved in the STSM. Participants underwent a physical examination and reported on the incidence of chronic musculoskeletal injuries, the anatomical site of injury, and weekly physical activity.
The analysis included EMG (electromyography), which is a technique for evaluating and recording electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. The test is used to help detect neuromuscular abnormalities. Telectrode’s (electrodes that stick to the skin) are inserted onto the skin above the muscle belly. Electrical activity picked up by the electrodes is then displayed on an oscilloscope (a monitor that displays electrical activity in the form of waves).
De Koning’s study, co-authored by M Miller, C Tucker and her superviser Dr Terry Ellapen, is unique in that although it was known that elderly people often experience difficulty completing the STSM, never before had EMG activity been recorded during the transition from STS, and with a postural analysis.
Ellapen said the study was the first of its kind internationally to validate these muscular imbalances in the elderly. It confirmed that elderly people with ATP have an abnormal biceps femoris: rectus femoris force-couple relationship which impacts on their STSM capability. The rectus femoris muscle is part of the quadriceps muscle group and the only muscle of the group which crosses the hip joint. It is a powerful knee extensor when the hip is extended, but is weak when the hip is flexed.
‘It’s a coup for a young South African like De Koning to have her study recognised internationally,’ said Ellapen. He added that it was important for more young and talented students to be introduced to the field of research in Biokinetics. ‘The more skills we bring into field, the more we can improve the quality of life in our communities’.
De Koning said she had wanted to do Biokinetics from the first day she stepped into the Sport Science programme. Now aged 22, De Koning is the first in her family to have graduated with a postgraduate degree and she intends to pursue her masters in the discipline. She said, ‘It’s really great to have your work published internationally, especially with this topic because getting old applies to everybody’.
De Koning is a keen sportswoman, specialising in stillwater life-saving, softball and indoor hockey. An accomplished swimmer, she has competed 13 consecutive Midmar Mile races. On the academic front, she received a UKZN Scholarship, and a Gold Award for a research presentation in 2013.