Mild diabetic neuropathy affects ankle motor function

Authors: Gutierrez-Farewik, E.M., Helber, M.D., Dealva, D., Ashton-Miller, J.A., Richardson, J.K.
Document Type: Article
Pubstate: Published
Journal: Clin Biomech
Volume: 16   522-528
Year: 2001


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of age and diabetic neuropathy on ankle motor function in the frontal plane in terms of rate of torque development and capability for balance recovery. DESIGN: Case control study. Six older women with diabetic neuropathy compared to six women without neuropathy, matched for age and presence of diabetes mellitus; and nine healthy young women. BACKGROUND: Neuropathy causes a distal impairment in lower extremity sensory function which increases fall risk. Impairments in ankle inversion/eversion proprioceptive thresholds have been identified, but the effect of neuropathy on ankle motor strength in the frontal plane is unknown. METHODS: Subjects` abilities to recover from a lateral lean (with center of gravity offset as percentage of foot width) while standing on one foot, and to rapidly generate inversion torque about the ankle, were quantified. RESULTS: All nine of the young, but only one of six older, control subjects recovered from a 10% lean (P=0.0052). Three of six older controls, but no neuropathy subject, recovered from a 5% lean (P=0.083). Neuropathy subjects demonstrated half the ankle rate of torque development [78.2 (50.8) N m/s; P=0.016] of the young and older controls [162.0 (54.6) and 152.7 (22.2) N m/s, respectively]. CONCLUSIONS: Diabetic neuropathy leads to a decrease in rapidly available ankle strength which impairs balance recovery among older women. Younger women demonstrate similar ankle strength but superior balance recovery compared to older women without neuropathy.