IN VIVO FINGER FLEXOR TENDON FORCE WHILE TAPPING ON A KEYSWITCH
Jack Tigh Dennerlein, Edward Diao
C.D. Mote, Jr., David M. Rempel
Force may be a risk factor for musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremity associated with typing and keying. However, the internal finger flexor tendon forces and their relationship to fingertip forces during rapid tapping on a keyswitch have yet been measured in vivo. During the open carpal tunnel release surgery of five human subjects, a tendon force transducer was inserted on the flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) of the long finger. During surgery, subjects tapped with the long finger on a computer keyswitch, instrumented with a keycap load cell. The average tendon maximum forces during a keystrike ranged from 8.3 N to 16.6 N (mean = 12.9 N, s.d. = 3.3 N) across subjects, four to seven times larger than the maximum forces observed at the fingertip. Tendon force estimated from an isometric tendon force model were only one to two times larger than tip force, significantly less than the observed tendon forces (p = 0.001). The force histories of the tendon during a keystroke were not proportional to fingertip force. First, the tendon force histories did not contain the high frequency fingertip force components observed as the tip impacts with the end of key travel. Instead, tendon tension during a keystroke continued to increase throughout the impact. Second, following the maximum keycap force, tendon tension during a keystroke decreased more slowly than fingertip force, remaining elevated approximately twice as long as the fingertip force. The prolonged elevation of tendon forces may be the result of residual eccentric muscle contraction and/or passive muscle forces which are additive to increasing extensor activity during the release phase of the keystroke.