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Impairments in quadriceps force control and altered quadriceps and hamstring muscle activation strategies have been observed following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction; however, the functional implications of these impairments are unclear. This study examined the cross-sectional associations between quadriceps force control, quadriceps activation, hamstring coactivation and clinically assessed knee function following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with a hamstring graft.
Sixty-six patients (18 ± 3 months following surgery) and 41 uninjured individuals participated. Quadriceps force control was assessed using an isometric knee extension task. Participants cyclically increased and decreased quadriceps force at slow speeds between 5 and 30 % maximum voluntary isometric contraction matching a moving target displayed on a screen. Quadriceps activation and hamstring coactivation were assessed concurrently using surface electromyography. Knee function was assessed with the Cincinnati Knee Rating Scale and three single-leg hop tests.
The reconstructed group completed the task with 48 % greater root-mean-square error (RMSE), indicating significantly worse quadriceps force control (p < 0.001). In a multivariable model adjusted for sex, greater RMSE and greater lateral hamstring coactivation were significantly associated with worse knee function that is greater odds of scoring <85 % on one or more knee functional assessment.
Less-accurate quadriceps force output and greater hamstring coactivation are associated with worse knee joint function following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and may contribute to irregular knee joint loading and the onset or progression of knee osteoarthritis. Impairments in quadriceps force control and altered muscle activation strategies may be modifiable through neuromuscular training, and this is an area for future research.
Level of evidence
Case–control study, Level III.


School of Exercise Science

Document Type

Journal Article

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