Strength Asymmetry and Landing Mechanics at Return to Sport after Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Laura C Schmitt, Mark V Paterno, Kevin R Ford, Gregory D Myer, Timothy E Hewett
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2015, 47 (7): 1426-34

PURPOSE: Evidence-based quadriceps femoris muscle (QF) strength guidelines for return to sport after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction are lacking. This study investigated the effect of QF strength asymmetry on knee landing biomechanics at the time of return to sport after ACL reconstruction.

METHODS: Seventy-seven individuals (17.4 yr) at the time of return to sport after primary ACL reconstruction (ACLR group) and 47 uninjured control individuals (17.0 yr; CTRL group) participated. QF strength was assessed and quadriceps index was calculated (QI = [involved strength / uninvolved strength] × 100%). The ACLR group was subdivided based on QI: high quadriceps (HQ, QI ≥ 90%) and low quadriceps (LQ, QI < 85%). Knee kinematic and kinetic variables were collected during a drop vertical jump maneuver. Limb symmetry during landing and discrete variables were compared among the groups using multivariate analysis of variance and linear regression analyses.

RESULTS: The LQ group demonstrated worse asymmetry in all kinetic and ground reaction force variables compared to the HQ and CTRL groups, including reduced involved limb peak knee external flexion moments (P < 0.001), reduced involved limb (P = 0.003) and increased uninvolved limb (P = 0.005) peak vertical ground reaction forces and higher uninvolved limb peak loading rates (P < 0.004). There were no differences in the landing patterns between the HQ and CTRL groups on any variable (P > 0.05). In the ACLR group, QF strength estimated limb symmetry during landing after controlling for graft type, meniscus injury, knee pain, and symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: At the time of return to sport, individuals after ACL reconstruction with weaker QF demonstrate altered landing patterns. Conversely, those with nearly symmetrical QF strength demonstrate landing patterns similar to uninjured individuals. Consideration of an objective QF strength measure may aid clinical decision making to optimize sports participation after ACL reconstruction.

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