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‘Digital human’ helps teach Stanford study participants to walk with less stress on knees

Scott Uhlrich walking on treadmill

Scott Uhlrich focuses on a bar graph that records which leg muscles he's using as he walks on a treadmill.

Jul 7 2022
Fellow, Research, Stanford

Researchers at Stanford Medicine have discovered how to reduce force on the knee by teaching study participants to employ different muscles as they walk.

Using results from a detailed computer simulation, called a “digital human,” participants in a small study were able to reduce the load on their knees by an average of 12%, a benefit equivalent to a person losing about 20% of their total body weight. The lighter load may alleviate pain from osteoarthritis or prevent joint injuries.

“We now have sufficiently realistic mathematical and computational models of human movement that we can change how the brain excites muscles in a simulation, and see how that affects joint loads,” said Scott Delp, PhD, professor of bioengineering, director of the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance and senior author of the study published July 7 in Scientific Reports.

Lead author and research engineer Scott Uhlrich is a 2014 SGF Fellow.

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