In order to obtain the lower limb kinematics from skin-based markers, the soft tissue artefact (STA) has to be compensated. Global optimization (GO) methods rely on a predefined kinematic model and attempt to limit STA by minimizing the differences between model predicted and skin-based marker positions. Thus, the reliability of GO methods depends directly on the chosen model, whose influence is not well known yet.
This study develops a GO method that allows to easily implement different sets of joint constraints in order to assess their influence on the lower limb kinematics during gait. The segment definition was based on generalized coordinates giving only linear or quadratic joint constraints. Seven sets of joint constraints were assessed, corresponding to different kinematic models at the ankle, knee and hip: SSS, USS, PSS, SHS, SPS, UHS and PPS (where S, U and H stand for spherical, universal and hinge joints and P for parallel mechanism). GO was applied to gait data from five healthy males.
Results showed that the lower limb kinematics, except hip kinematics, knee and ankle flexion–extension, significantly depend on the chosen ankle and knee constraints. The knee parallel mechanism generated some typical knee rotation patterns previously observed in lower limb kinematic studies. Furthermore, only the parallel mechanisms produced joint displacements.
Thus, GO using parallel mechanism seems promising. It also offers some perspectives of subject-specific joint constraints.