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Impact of Quadriceps Tendon Graft Thickness on Electromechanical Delay and Neuromuscular Performance After ACL Reconstruction.

BACKGROUND: Both partial- and full-thickness quadriceps tendon (QT) graft harvests are used for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR).

PURPOSE: To evaluate the impact of QT graft harvest depth (full or partial thickness) on electromechanical delay (EMD), peak torque (PT), and rate of torque development (RTD) after ACLR.

STUDY DESIGN: Controlled laboratory study.

METHODS: A total of 26 patients who underwent either partial-thickness (n = 14) or full-thickness (n = 12) autograft QT ACLR were recruited between June and November 2021 (>1 year before participation). Patients performed isokinetic knee extension testing with surface electromyography of the quadriceps muscles. Mixed repeated-measures analysis of variance with least significant difference post hoc testing was used to determine significant differences (mean difference [MD] ± SE) or interactions for all variables.

RESULTS: A significant speed×depth interaction was seen for the vastus medialis ( P = .005). Pairwise analyses showed significantly longer EMD for the partial-thickness graft than the full-thickness graft (MD ± SE, 19.92 ± 6.33 ms; P = .006). In the partial-thickness graft, the EMD was significantly longer at 90 deg/s versus 180 deg/s (MD ± SE, 19.11 ± 3.95 ms; P < .001) and 300 deg/s (MD ± SE, 16.43 ± 5.30 ms; P = .006). For PT, the full-thickness graft had a significantly lower PT on the operated versus nonoperated side at all speeds (MD ± SE: 90 deg/s, -57.0 ± 10.5 N·m, P < .001; 180 deg/s, -26.0 ± 10.2 N·m, P = .020; 300 deg/s, -20.3 ± 8.9 N·m, P = .034). For RTD, the full-thickness graft showed significantly Slower RTD for the operated versus nonoperated side at all time points (MD ± SD: RTD0-25 (0-25% of the range of motion), -131.3 ± 50.9 N·m/s, P = .018; RTD25-50 , -197.0 ± 72.5 N·m/s, P = .014; RTD50-75 , -113.3 ± 39.8 N·m/s, P = .013; RTD75-100 , -149.4 ± 35.9 N·m/s, P < .001).

CONCLUSION: Compared with partial-thickness QT, full-thickness QT showed a shorter vastus medialis EMD at higher loading, and therefore greater stiffness, as well as slower RTD and lower PT across all testing speeds.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The impact of full-thickness QT autograft on EMD and neuromuscular performance should be considered for ACLR.

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