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Patellar Tendon Load Progression during Rehabilitation Exercises: Implications for the Treatment of Patellar Tendon Injuries.

PURPOSE: To evaluate patellar tendon loading profiles (loading index, based on loading peak, loading impulse, and loading rate) of rehabilitation exercises to develop clinical guidelines to incrementally increase the rate and magnitude of patellar tendon loading during rehabilitation.

METHODS: Twenty healthy adults (10 females/10 males, 25.9 ± 5.7 years) performed 35 rehabilitation exercises, including different variations of squats, lunge, jumps, hops, landings, running, and sports specific tasks. Kinematic and kinetic data were collected and a patellar tendon loading index was determined for each exercise using a weighted sum of loading peak, loading rate, and cumulative loading impulse. Then, the exercises were ranked, according to the loading index, into tier 1 (loading index≤0.33), tier 2 (0.33 < loading index<0.66), and tier 3 (loading index≥0.66).

RESULTS: The single-leg decline squat showed the highest loading index (0.747). Other tier 3 exercises included single-leg forward hop (0.666), single-leg countermovement jump (0.711), and running cut (0.725). The Spanish squat was categorized as a tier 2 exercise (0.563), as was running (0.612), double-leg countermovement jump (0.610), single-leg drop vertical jump (0.599), single-leg full squat (0.580), double-leg drop vertical jump (0.563), lunge (0.471), double-leg full squat (0.428), single-leg 60° squat (0.411), and the Bulgarian squat (0.406). Tier 1 exercises included 20 cm step up (0.187), 20 cm step down (0.288), 30 cm step up (0.321), and double-leg 60° squat (0.224).

CONCLUSIONS: Three patellar tendon loading tiers were established based on a combination of loading peak, loading impulse, and loading rate. Clinicians may use these loading tiers as a guide to progressively increase patellar tendon loading during the rehabilitation of patients with patellar tendon disorders and after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction using the bone patellar tendon bone graft.

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