Muscle Shortening and Spastic Cocontraction in Gastrocnemius Medialis and Peroneus Longus in Very Young Hemiparetic Children

  • Vinti M.
  • Bayle N.
  • Merlo A.
  • Authier G.
  • Pesenti S.
  • Jouve J. -L.
  • Chabrol B.
  • Gracies J. -M.
  • Boulay C.


Objectives. Muscle shortening and spastic cocontraction in ankle plantar flexors may alter gait since early childhood in cerebral palsy (CP). We evaluated gastrosoleus complex (GSC) length, and gastrocnemius medialis (GM) and peroneus longus (PL) activity during swing phase, in very young hemiparetic children with equinovalgus. Methods. This was an observational, retrospective, and monocentric outpatient study in a pediatric hospital. Ten very young hemiparetic children (age 3 +/- 1 yrs) were enrolled. These CP children were assessed for muscle extensibility (Tardieu scale X-v1) in GSC (angle of arrest during slow-speed passive ankle dorsiflexion with the knee extended) and monitored for GM and PL electromyography (EMG) during the swing phase of gait. The swing phase was divided into three periods (T1, T2, and T3), in which we measured a cocontraction index (CCI), ratio of the Root Mean Square EMG (RMS-EMG) from each muscle during that period to the peak 500 ms RMS-EMG obtained from voluntary plantar flexion during standing on tiptoes (from several 5-second series, the highest RMS value was computed over 500 ms around the peak). Results. On the paretic side: (i) the mean X-v1.GSC was 100 degrees (8 degrees) (median (SD)) versus 106 degrees (3 degrees) on the nonparetic side (p = 0.032, Mann-Whitney); (ii) X-v1.GSC diminished with age between ages of 2 and 5 (Spearman, rho = 0.019); (iii) CCIGM and CCIPL during swing phase were higher than on the nonparetic side (CCIGM, 0.32 (0.20) versus 0.15 (0.09), p < 0.01; CCIPL , 032 (0.30) versus 0.24 (0.17), p < 0.01), with an early difference significant for PL from T1 (p = 0.03). Conclusions. In very young hemiparetic children, the paretic GSC may rapidly shorten in the first years of life. GM and PL cocontraction during swing phase are excessive, which contributes to dynamic equinovalgus. Muscle extensibility (X-v1) may have to be monitored and preserved in the first years of life in children with CP. Additional measurements of cocontraction may further help target treatments with botulinum toxin, especially in peroneus longus.