Current models and concepts of motor control represent the limb as a neuro-musculoskeletal system and rarely include other potentially important supporting tissues such as fascia and adipose tissue. It is possible that a normal complement of adipose tissue could contribute to the viscoelastic properties of supporting limbs and enhance stability during locomotion. The purpose of this study was to determine if the popliteal fat pad plays a role in locomotion in the cat. It is hypothesized that the fat pad limits flexion and reduces angular acceleration of the included hip, knee and ankle joints in the sagittal plane throughout the step cycle. 3D kinematics from 3 spontaneously locomoting decerebrate cats both before and after lipectomy were recorded during treadmill walking. Four time points throughout the step cycle were chosen for angular acceleration analysis: mid-stance, paw off, mid-swing and peak deceleration at the end of the re-extension of the knee. Significant increases in maximum angular acceleration for the hip, knee and ankle joints at these time points were observed. No significant increase in range of motion was found across all 3 included angles after lipectomy. Therefore, the hypothesis that the popliteal fat pad acts to decrease the angular acceleration is supported by these findings. The data indicate that the popliteal fat pad contributes to the damping component of the viscoelastic properties of the limb. These results may be applied to models of the hindlimb and knowledge of the effects of obesity on movement
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