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Context: Altered quadriceps activation is common following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR), and can persist for years after surgery. These neural deficits are due, in part, to chronic central nervous system alterations. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive modality, that is, believed to immediately increase motor neuron activity by stimulating the primary motor cortex, making it a promising modality to use improve outcomes in the ACLR population. Objective: To determine if a single treatment of tDCS would result in increased quadriceps activity and decreased levels of self-reported pain and dysfunction during exercise. Design: Randomized crossover design. Setting: Controlled laboratory. Patients: Ten participants with a history of ACLR (5 males/5 females, 22.9 [4.23] y, 176.57 [12.01] cm, 80.87 [16.86] kg, 68.1 [39.37] mo since ACLR). Interventions: Active tDCS and Sham tDCS. Main Outcome Measures: Percentage of maximum electromyographic data of vastus medialis and lateralis, voluntary isometric strength, percentage of voluntary activation, and self-reported pain and symptom scores were measured. The 2 × 2 repeated-measures analysis of variance by limb were performed to explain the differences between time points (pre and post) and condition (tDCS and sham). Results: There was a significant time main effect for quadriceps percentage of maximum electromyographic of vastus medialis (F9,1 = 11.931, P = .01) and vastus lateralis (F9,1 = 9.132, P = .01), isometric strength (F9,1 = 5.343, P = .046), and subjective scores for pain (F9,1 = 15.499, P = .04) and symptoms (F9,1 = 15.499, P = .04). Quadriceps percentage of maximum electromyographic, isometric strength, and voluntary activation showed an immediate decline from pre to post regardless of tDCS condition. Subjective scores improved slightly after each condition. Conclusions: One session of active tDCS did not have an immediate effect on quadriceps activity and subjective scores of pain and symptoms. To determine if tDCS is a valid modality for this patient population, a larger scale investigation with multiple treatments of active tDCS is warranted.
Rush is with the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health and Human Services, The University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA. L.K. Lepley and A.S. Lepley are with the School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA. Davi is with the Sports Optimization and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA. A.S. Lepley is also with the Michigan Performance Research Laboratory, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.