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Strategies for knee stabilising and pivot-shift avoidance in a step-down and cross-over task observed sub-acutely after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

Clinical Biomechanics 2024 April 24
BACKGROUND: Individuals with a recent anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction may demonstrate an altered movement strategy for protecting the knee and maintaining stability. Altered knee movement might lead to abnormal intra-articular load, potentially contributing to early knee osteoarthritis onset. A protective strategy may be particularly evident during active tasks that induce a pivot-shift manoeuvre, such as a step-down and cross-over task. In this study, we investigated whether knee joint mechanics and muscle activity differed between participants early (∼3 months) following reconstruction (n = 35) to uninjured controls (n = 35) during a step-down and cross-over task with a 45° change-of-direction.

METHODS: We used motion capture, force plates and surface electromyography to compare time-normalised curves of sagittal and transverse-plane knee mechanics and muscle activity during the cross-over phase between groups using functional t-tests. We also compared knee mechanics between sides within the injured group and compared discrete outcomes describing the cross-over phase between groups.

FINDINGS: Compared to controls, the injured participants had greater knee flexion angle and moment, lower internal rotation moment, more preparatory foot rotation of the pivoting leg, a smaller cross-over angle, and a longer cross-over phase for both the injured and uninjured sides. The injured leg also had greater biceps femoris and vastus medialis muscle activity compared to controls and different knee mechanics than the uninjured leg.

INTERPRETATION: Individuals with anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction showed a knee-stabilising and pivot-shift avoidance strategy for both legs early in rehabilitation. These results may reflect an altered motor representation and motivate considerations early in rehabilitation.

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