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Grant E. Norte, Jay N. Hertel, Susan A. Saliba, David R. Diduch and Joseph M. Hart

Context: Assessment of physical function for individuals after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACL-R) is complex and warrants the use of diverse evaluation strategies. To maximize the efficiency of assessment, there is a need to identify tests that provide the most meaningful information about this population. Objective: To investigate underlying constructs of quadriceps muscle function that uniquely describe aspects of performance in patients after ACL-R and establish clinical thresholds for measures able to classify patients with and without ACL-R. Design: Cross-sectional. Setting: Research laboratory. Patients (or Other Participants): Seventy-two patients with a primary, unilateral ACL-R (32 males and 40 females, age = 26.0 [9.3] y, time since surgery = 46.5 [58.0] mo) and 30 healthy controls (12 males and 18 females, age = 22.7 [4.6] y). Intervention(s): Quadriceps function was assessed bilaterally during 1 study visit. Main Outcome Measures: Isokinetic strength (peak torque, total work, and average power) at 90° and 180°/s, maximal voluntary isometric contraction torque, fatigue index, central activation ratio, Hoffmann reflex, and active motor threshold. Principal component analyses were performed for the involved limb, contralateral limb, and limb symmetry. Receiver–operator characteristic curve analyses were conducted to determine the diagnostic utility of each variable. Binary logistic regression was used to predict group membership (ACL-R vs healthy). Results: Three components of peripheral, central, and combined (peripheral and central) muscle function were identified, explaining 70.7% to 80.5% of variance among measures of quadriceps function. Total knee-extensor work at 90°/s (≥18.4 J/kg), active motor threshold (≥39.5%), and central activation ratio (≥94.7%) of the involved limb were strong predictors of patient status and correctly classified 83.5% of patients with ACL-R (P < .001). Conclusions: Unique constructs of peripheral, central, and combined muscle function exist in patients with ACL-R. Total knee-extensor work at 90°/s, active motor threshold, and central activation ratio consistently explained a significant portion of variance in measures of quadriceps function, demonstrated acceptable to excellent diagnostic utility, and predicted group membership with 72.8% to 83.5% accuracy.

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Christopher Kuenze, Jay Hertel, Susan Saliba, David R. Diduch, Arthur Weltman and Joseph M. Hart

Context:

Normal, symmetrical quadriceps strength is a common clinical goal after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). Currently, the clinical thresholds for acceptable unilateral quadriceps function and symmetry associated with positive outcomes after return to activity are unclear.

Objective:

To establish quadriceps-activation and knee-extension-torque cutoffs for clinical assessment after return to activity after ACLR.

Design:

Descriptive laboratory study.

Setting:

Laboratory.

Patients:

22 (10 female, 12 male; age = 22.5 ± 5.0 y, height = 172.9 ± 7.1 cm, mass = 74.1 ± 15.5 kg, months since surgery = 31.5 ± 23.5) recreationally active persons with a history of unilateral, primary ACLR at least 6 months prior and 24 (12 female/12 male, age = 21.7 ± 3.6 y, height = 168.0 ± 8.8 cm, mass = 69.3 ± 13.6 kg) recreationally active healthy participants.

Main Outcome Measures:

Patient-reported measures of pain, knee-related function, and physical activity level were recorded for all participants. Normalized knee-extension maximum-voluntary-isometric-contraction (MVIC) torque (Nm/kg) and quadriceps central-activation ratio (CAR, %) were measured bilaterally in all participants. Receiver-operator-characteristic (ROC) curves were used to establish thresholds for unilateral measures of normalized knee-extension MVIC torque and quadriceps CAR, as well as limb-symmetry indices (LSI). ROC curves then established clinical thresholds for normalized knee-extension MVIC torque and quadriceps CAR LSIs associated with healthy knee-related function.

Results:

Involved-quadriceps CAR above 89.3% was the strongest unilateral indicator of healthy-group membership, while quadriceps CAR LSI above 0.996 and knee-extension MVIC torque above 0.940 were the strongest overall indicators. Unilateral normalized knee-extension MVIC torque above 3.00 Nm/kg and quadriceps CAR LSI above 0.992 were the best indicators of good patient-reported knee-related outcomes.

Conclusions:

Threshold values established in this study may provide a guide for clinicians when making return-to-activity decisions after ACLR. Normalized knee-extension MVIC torque (>3.00 Nm/kg) and quadriceps CAR symmetry (>99.6%) are both strong indicators of good patient-reported outcomes after ACLR.

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Ian J. Dempsey, Grant E. Norte, Matthew Hall, John Goetschius, Lindsay V. Slater, Jourdan M. Cancienne, Brian C. Werner, David R. Diduch and Joseph M. Hart

Context: Postoperative rehabilitation is critical to optimize outcomes after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). However, the relationship between physical therapy (PT) and clinical outcomes is unclear. Objective: To describe PT characteristics following ACLR and to assess the relationships between PT characteristics, surgical procedure, and clinical outcomes. Design: Cross-sectional. Setting: Laboratory. Patients (or Other Participants): A total of 60 patients (31 females/29 males, age = 22.4 [9.2] y, height = 171.7 [9.9] cm, and mass = 70.2 [14.7] kg) with a history of primary unilateral ACLR (53.6% patellar tendon and 46.4% hamstring) participated. Intervention(s): Patients completed a performance assessment and rated subjective knee function prior to physician clearance (mean = 6.3 [1.3] mo postoperatively) and were contacted within 6 months of clearance to complete a PT questionnaire. Main Outcome Measures: PT questionnaire item response, knee extension maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) torque, peak isokinetic knee extension torque, single leg hop distance, and International Knee Documentation Committee were measured. Correlations assessed relationships between PT quantity and clinical outcomes. Independent t tests compared PT quantity and clinical outcomes based on return-to-sport status, readiness to return to sport, and surgical procedure. Results: Patients completed regular PT (2 d/wk, 25 wk, 58 visits) and were most likely to conclude when discharged by the therapist (68.3%). More than half (56.7%) returned to sport, yet most (73.3%) felt unready at discharge. Isokinetic torque was correlated with days of PT/week (r = .29, P = .03). Isokinetic torque and hop symmetry were reduced in patients who returned to sport (P < .05). Patients who felt ready to return completed fewer weeks of PT (P < .05). Patients with a patellar tendon graft completed more days of PT/week and total visits, but demonstrated lower MVIC torque, MVIC symmetry, and isokinetic symmetry (P < .05). Conclusions: Many patients felt unready to return to sport at PT discharge. PT frequency was associated with isokinetic torque, yet this relationship was small. Outcomes were reduced in patients who returned to sport, suggesting premature resumption of preinjury activity.