Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Superimposed on Movement Early after ACL Surgery

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Quadriceps weakness and asymmetrical loading of lower limbs are two major issues after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a 6-wk training protocol involving neuromuscular electrical stimulations (NMES) of the quadriceps muscle superimposed on repeated sit-to-stand-to-sit exercises (STSTS), as an additional treatment to standard rehabilitation, from the 15th to the 60th day after ACLR.


Sixty-three ACLR patients were randomly allocated to one of the three treatment groups: NMES superimposed on STSTS (NMES + STSTS), STSTS only, or no additional treatment (NAT) to standard rehabilitation. Maximal isometric strength of the knee extensor and flexor muscles was measured 60 and 180 d after surgery. Asymmetry in lower extremity loading was measured during a sit-to-stand movement at 15, 30, 60, and 180 d after surgery and during a countermovement jump 180 d after surgery by means of two adjacent force platforms placed under each foot.


The NMES + STSTS participants showed higher muscle strength of the knee extensors, which was accompanied by lower perception of pain and higher symmetry in lower extremity loading compared with STSTS-only and NAT participants after both 60 and 180 d from surgery. Participants in the STSTS-only treatment group showed higher symmetry in lower extremity loading compared with those in the NAT group 60 d after surgery.


These results suggest that an early intervention based on NMES superimposed to repeated STSTS exercises is effective for recovering quadriceps strength and symmetry in lower extremity loading by the time of return to sport.

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