Effects of Neuromuscular Fatigue on Quadriceps Strength and Activation and Knee Biomechanics in Individuals Post-Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction and Healthy Adults

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Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

Laboratory-based experiment using a pretest/posttest design.

OBJECTIVES:

To determine the effects of neuromuscular fatigue on quadriceps strength and activation and sagittal and frontal plane knee biomechanics during dynamic landing following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR).

BACKGROUND:

Impaired quadriceps central activation occurs post-ACLR, likely altering lower extremity biomechanics. Neuromuscular fatigue similarly reduces volitional muscle activation and impairs neuromuscular control. Upon return to full activity post-ACLR, individuals likely concurrently experience quadriceps central activation deficits and neuromuscular fatigue, though the effects of fatigue on muscle strength and activation and biomechanics post-ACLR are unknown.

METHODS:

Seventeen individuals 7 to 10 months post-ACLR and 16 controls participated. Quadriceps strength and central activation ratio were recorded prefatigue and postfatigue, which was induced via sets of double-leg squats. Knee biomechanics were recorded during a dynamic landing activity prefatigue and postfatigue.

RESULTS:

Both groups demonstrated smaller knee flexion (initial contact, P = .017; peak, P = .004) and abduction (initial contact, P = .005; peak, P = .009) angles postfatigue. The ACLR group had smaller peak knee flexion angles (P<.001) prefatigue and postfatigue than controls. Knee flexion moment was smaller in those post-ACLR than controls prefatigue (P<.001), but not postfatigue (P = .103). Controls had smaller knee flexion moments postfatigue (P = .001). Knee abduction moment was smaller in both groups postfatigue (P = .003). All participants demonstrated significantly lower strength (P<.001) and activation (P = .003) postfatigue.

CONCLUSION:

Impaired strength, central activation, and biomechanics were present postfatigue in both groups, suggesting that neuromuscular fatigue may increase noncontact ACL injury risk. However, these changes were not exaggerated in those post-ACLR, likely because they already demonstrated a stiff-legged landing strategy prefatigue.

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