Interventions aimed at safely overloading the quadriceps muscle after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction are essential to reducing quadriceps muscle weakness that often persists long after the rehabilitation period. Despite the best efforts of clinicians and researchers to improve ACL rehabilitation techniques, a universally effective intervention to restore preinjury quadriceps strength has yet to be identified. A muscle’s force-producing capacity is most optimal when an external force exceeds that of the muscle while the muscle lengthens. Hence, the potential to improve muscle strength by overloading the tissue is greater with eccentric strengthening than with concentric strengthening. Traditionally, the application of early postoperative high-intensity eccentric resistance training to the ACL-reconstructed limb has been contraindicated, as there is potential for injury to the ACL graft, articular cartilage, or surrounding soft-tissue structures. However, recent evidence suggests that the application of early, progressive, high-force eccentric resistance exercises to the involved limb can be used to safely increase muscle volume and strength in ACL-reconstructed individuals. As a result, eccentric strengthening may be another attractive alternative to traditional concentric strengthening to improve quadriceps strength after ACL reconstruction.
Focused Clinical Question:
In patients who have undergone ACL reconstruction, is there evidence to suggest that eccentric exercise positively affects postoperative quadriceps strength?
The authors are with the School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.