Reliability of surface electromyographic (sEMG) measures of equine axial and appendicular muscles during overground trot

St. George, Lindsay Blair orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5531-1207, Spoormakers, T. J. P., Roy, S. H., Hobbs, Sarah Jane orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1552-8647, Clayton, H. M., Richards, James orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4004-3115 and Serra Bragança, F. M. (2023) Reliability of surface electromyographic (sEMG) measures of equine axial and appendicular muscles during overground trot. PLOS ONE, 18 (7).

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The reliability of surface electromyography (sEMG) has not been adequately demonstrated in the equine literature and is an essential consideration as a methodology for application in clinical gait analysis. This observational study investigated within-session, intra-subject (stride-to-stride) and inter-subject reliability, and between-session reliability of normalised sEMG activity profiles, from triceps brachii (triceps), latissimus dorsi (latissimus), longissimus dorsi (longissimus), biceps femoris (biceps), superficial gluteal (gluteal) and semitendinosus muscles in n = 8 clinically non-lame horses during in-hand trot. sEMG sensors were bilaterally located on muscles to collect data during two test sessions (session 1 and 2) with a minimum 24-hour interval. Raw sEMG signals from ten trot strides per horse and session were DC-offset removed, high-pass filtered (40 Hz), full-wave rectified, and low-pass filtered (25 Hz). Signals were normalised to peak amplitude and percent stride before calculating intra- and inter-subject ensemble average sEMG profiles across strides for each muscle and session. sEMG profiles were assessed using waveform similarity statistics: the coefficient of variation (CV) to assess intra- and inter-subject reliability and the adjusted coefficient of multiple correlation (CMC) to evaluate between-session reliability. Across muscles, CV data revealed that intra-horse sEMG profiles within- and between-sessions were comparatively more reliable than inter-horse profiles. Bilateral gluteal, semitendinosus, triceps and longissimus (at T14 and L1) and right biceps showed excellent between-session reliability with group-averaged CMCs > 0.90 (range 0.90–0.97). Bilateral latissimus and left biceps showed good between-session reliability with group-averaged CMCs > 0.75 (range 0.78–0.88). sEMG profiles can reliably describe fundamental muscle activity patterns for selected equine muscles within a test session for individual horses (intra-subject). However, these profiles are more variable across horses (inter-subject) and between sessions (between-session reliability), suggesting that it is reasonable to use sEMG to objectively monitor the intra-individual activity of these muscles across multiple gait evaluation sessions at in-hand trot.

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