The Effect of Uphill and Downhill Walking on Joint-Position Sense: A Study on Healthy Knees

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context:

During sport activity, knee proprioception might worsen. This decrease in proprioceptive acuity negatively influences motor control and therefore may increase injury risk. Hiking is a common activity characterized by a higher-intensity-exercise phase during uphill walking and a lower-intensity-exercise phase during downhill walking. Pain and injuries are reported in hiking, especially during the downhill phase.

Objective:

To examine the effect of a hiking-fatigue protocol on joint-position sense.

Design:

Repeated measures.

Setting:

University research laboratory.

Participants:

24 nonprofessional sportswomen without knee injuries.

Main Outcome Measures:

Joint-position sense was tested at the beginning, after 30 min uphill walking, and after 30 min downhill walking on a treadmill (continuous protocol).

Results:

After downhill walking, joint-position sense was significantly worse than in the test at the beginning (P = .035, α = .05). After uphill walking, no differences were observed in comparison with the test at the beginning (P = .172, α = .05) or the test after downhill walking (P = .165, α = .05).

Conclusion:

Downhill walking causes impairment in knee-joint-position sense. Considering these results, injury-prevention protocols for hiking should focus on maintaining and improving knee proprioception during the descending phase.

Bottoni, Kofler, and Nachbauer are with the Dept of Sport Science, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria. Heinrich and Hasler are with the Center of Technology of Ski and Alpine Sport, Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.

Address author correspondence to Giuliamarta Bottoni at giuliamarta.bottoni@uibk.ac.at.