Background: Estimation of an individual muscle force still remains one of the main challenges in biomechanics. In this way, the present study aimed: (1) to determine whether an elastography technique called Supersonic Shear Imaging (SSI) could be used to estimate muscle force, (2) to compare this estimation to that one provided by surface electromyography (EMG), and (3) to determine the effect of the pennation of muscle fibers on the accuracy of the estimation.
Methods and Results: Eleven subjects participated in two experimental sessions; one was devoted to the shear elastic modulus measurements and the other was devoted to the EMG recordings. Each session consisted in: (1) two smooth linear torque ramps from 0 to 60% and from 0 to 30% of maximal voluntary contraction, for the first dorsal interosseous and the abductor digiti minimi, respectively (referred to as "ramp contraction"); (2) two contractions done with the instruction to freely change the torque (referred to as "random changes contraction"). Multi-channel surface EMG recordings were obtained from a linear array of eight electrodes and the shear elastic modulus was measured using SSI. For ramp contractions, significant linear relationships were reported between EMG activity level and torque (R 2 = 0.949±0.036), and between shear elastic modulus and torque (R 2 = 0.982±0.013). SSI provided significant lower RMS deviation between measured torque and estimated torque than EMG activity level for both types of contraction (1.4±0.7 vs. 2.8±1.4% of maximal voluntary contraction for "ramp contractions", p<0.01; 4.5±2.3 vs. 7.9±5.9% of MVC for "random changes contractions", p<0.05). No significant difference was reported between muscles. Conclusion: The shear elastic modulus measured using SSI can provide a more accurate estimation of individual muscle force than surface EMG. In addition, pennation of muscle fibers does not influence the accuracy of the estimation