Anatomically asymmetrical runners move more asymmetrically at the same metabolic cost

Elena Seminati, Francesca Nardello, Paola Zamparo, Luca P Ardigò, Niccolò Faccioli, Alberto E Minetti

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We hypothesized that, as occurring in cars, body structural asymmetries could generate asymmetry in the kinematics/dynamics of locomotion, ending up in a higher metabolic cost of transport, i.e. more 'fuel' needed to travel a given distance. Previous studies found the asymmetries in horses' body negatively correlated with galloping performance. In this investigation, we analyzed anatomical differences between the left and right lower limbs as a whole by performing 3D cross-correlation of Magnetic Resonance Images of 19 male runners, clustered as Untrained Runners, Occasional Runners and Skilled Runners. Running kinematics of their body centre of mass were obtained from the body segments coordinates measured by a 3D motion capture system at incremental running velocities on a treadmill. A recent mathematical procedure quantified the asymmetry of the body centre of mass trajectory between the left and right steps. During the same sessions, runners' metabolic consumption was measured and the cost of transport was calculated. No correlations were found between anatomical/kinematic variables and the metabolic cost of transport, regardless of the training experience. However, anatomical symmetry significant correlated to the kinematic symmetry, and the most trained subjects showed the highest level of kinematic symmetry during running. Results suggest that despite the significant effects of anatomical asymmetry on kinematics, either those changes are too small to affect economy or some plastic compensation in the locomotor system mitigates the hypothesized change in energy expenditure of running.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e74134
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Running
  • Young Adult


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