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Ashley Stern, Chris Kuenze, Daniel Herman, Lindsay D. Sauer and Joseph M. Hart

Context:

Central and peripheral muscle fatigue during exercise may exacerbate neuromuscular factors that increase risk for noncontact anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Objective:

To compare lower extremity motor-evoked potentials (MEPs), muscle strength, and electromyography (EMG) activation after an exercise protocol.

Design:

Pretest, posttest group comparison.

Setting:

University laboratory.

Participants:

34 healthy volunteers (17 female, age = 21.9 ± 2.3 years, weight = 77.8 ± 3.0 kg, height = 171.1 ± 6.6 cm, and 17 male, age = 23.4 ± 6.5 years, weight = 81.6 ± 3.3 kg, height = 179.6 ± 7.3 cm).

Intervention:

A standardized 30-min exercise protocol that involved 5 repeated cycles of uphill walking, body-weight squatting, and step-ups.

Main Outcome Measures:

Quadriceps and hamstring MEP amplitude (mV) and transmission velocity normalized to subject height (m/s) were elicited via transcranial magnetic stimulation and measured via surface EMG. Quadriceps and hamstring peak EMG activation (% MVIC) and peak torque (Nm/kg) were measured during MVICs. Separate ANCOVAs were used to compare groups after exercise while controlling for baseline measurement.

Results:

At baseline, males exhibited significantly greater knee-extension torques (males = 2.47 ± 0.68 Nm/kg, females = 1.95 ± 0.53 Nm/kg; P = .036) and significantly higher hamstring MEP amplitudes (males = 223.5 ± 134.0 mV, females = 89.3 ± 77.6 mV; P = .007). Males exhibited greater quadriceps MEP amplitude after exercise than females (males = 127.2 ± 112.7 mV, females = 32.3 ± 34.9 mV; P = .016).

Conclusions:

Males experienced greater peripheral neuromuscular changes manifested as more pronounced reductions in quadriceps torque after exercise. Females experienced greater central neuromuscular changes manifested as more pronounced reduction in quadriceps MEP amplitude. Reduced central neural drive of the quadriceps coupled with knee-extension torque preservation after exercise may increase risk of knee injury in females.

Open access

Ryan Morrison, Kyle M. Petit, Chris Kuenze, Ryan N. Moran and Tracey Covassin

Context: Balance testing is a vital component in the evaluation and management of sport-related concussion. Few studies have examined the use of objective, low-cost, force-plate balance systems and changes in balance after a competitive season. Objective: To examine the extent of preseason versus postseason static balance changes using the Balance Tracking System (BTrackS) force plate in college athletes. Design: Pretest, posttest design. Setting: Athletic training facility. Participants: A total of 47 healthy, Division-I student-athletes (33 males and 14 females; age 18.4 [0.5] y, height 71.8 [10.8] cm, weight 85.6 [21.7] kg) participated in this study. Main Outcome Measures: Total center of pressure path length was measured preseason and postseason using the BTrackS force plate. A Wilcoxon signed-rank test was conducted to examine preseason and postseason changes. SEM and minimal detectable change were also calculated. Results: There was a significant difference in center of pressure path length differed between preseason (24.6 [6.8] cm) and postseason (22.7 [5.4] cm) intervals (P = .03), with an SEM of 3.8 cm and minimal detectable change of 10.5 cm. Conclusions: Significant improvements occurred for center of pressure path length after a competitive season, when assessed using the BTrackS in a sample of college athletes. Further research is warranted to determine the effectiveness of the BTrackS as a reliable, low-cost alternative to force-plate balance systems. In addition, clinicians may need to update baseline balance assessments more frequently to account for improvements.

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Grant E. Norte, Katherine R. Knaus, Chris Kuenze, Geoffrey G. Handsfield, Craig H. Meyer, Silvia S. Blemker and Joseph M. Hart

Context: Study of muscle volumes in patients after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and reconstruction (ACL-R) is largely limited to cross-sectional assessment of the thigh musculature, which may inadequately describe posttraumatic and postsurgical muscle function. No studies have prospectively examined the influence of ACL injury and reconstruction on lower-extremity muscle volumes. Objective: Assess magnetic resonance imaging-derived lower-extremity muscle volumes, and quantify quadriceps strength and activation in patients following ACL injury and reconstruction. Design: Prospective case series. Setting: Research laboratory and magnetic resonance imaging facility. Patients (or Other Participants): Four patients (2 men and 2 women; age = 27.4 (7.4) y, height = 169.2 (8.1) cm, and mass = 74.3 (18.5) kg) scheduled for ACL-R. Intervention(s): Thirty-five muscle volumes were obtained from a bilateral lower-extremity magnetic resonance imaging before and after ACL-R. Main Outcome Measures: Muscle volumes expressed relative to (1) a normative database presurgery and postsurgery, (2) limb symmetry presurgery and postsurgery, and (3) percentage change presurgery to postsurgery. Quadriceps function was quantified by normalized knee extension maximal voluntary isometric contraction torque and central activation ratio. Results: Involved vastus lateralis and tibialis anterior were consistently smaller than healthy individuals (z < −1 SD) presurgery and postsurgery in all patients. Involved rectus femoris and vastus lateralis were more than 15% smaller than the contralateral limb presurgery, whereas the involved rectus femoris, gracilis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis muscle volumes exceeded 20% asymmetry postoperatively. Involved gracilis and semitendinosus atrophied more than 30% from presurgery to postsurgery. Involved maximal voluntary isometric contraction torque and central activation ratio increased by 12.7% and 12.5%, respectively, yet strength remained 33.2% asymmetric postsurgery. Conclusions: Adaptations in lower-extremity muscle volumes are present following ACL injury and reconstruction. Anterior thigh and shank muscles were smaller than healthy individuals, and large asymmetries in quadriceps volumes were observed presurgery and postsurgery. Selective atrophy of the semitendinosus and gracilis occurred following surgery. Volumetric deficits of the quadriceps musculature may exist despite improvements in muscle strength and activation.