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Lindsey K. Lepley and Riann M. Palmieri-Smith

Clinical Scenario:

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?

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Shahrzad Mohammadi-Rad, Mahyar Salavati, Ismail Ebrahimi-Takamjani, Behnam Akhbari, Shiva Sherafat, Hossein Negahban, Pezhman Lali and Masood Mazaheri

Purpose:

To compare the effect of dual tasking on postural stability between patients with anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACL-R) and healthy controls.

Methods:

Single-limb postural stability was assessed in 17 athletes with ACL-R and 17 healthy matched athletes while standing on a Biodex Balance System platform in 4 conditions: stability level of 8 (ie, more-stable support surface) with eyes open, stability level of 8 with eyes closed, stability level of 6 (ie, less-stable support surface) with eyes open, and stability level of 6 with eyes closed. Postural-stability tasks were performed with and without auditory Stroop task. The anteroposterior stability index (APSI), mediolateral stability index (MLSI), and overall stability index (OSI) as measures of postural performance, as well as reaction time and error ratio as measures of cognitive performance, were recorded.

Results:

Dual-tasking effect on postural stability was not significantly different between the groups in 3 postural conditions. Only in level 6 with eyes open, for APSI and OSI, patients with ACL-R showed lower postural stability under the dual-task condition. However, patients showed poorer performance on both reaction time and error ratio in all postural conditions.

Conclusions:

The patients with ACL-R appeared to sacrifice their cognitive performance to optimize their performance on postural stability. This posture-first strategy was reflected by a more pronounced effect of dual tasking on the auditory Stroop task than the postural-stability task. In situations where maintenance of posture is challenging, giving priority to the postural task at the expense of cognitive performance can ensure safety from balance loss.

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Tania Suarez, Luca Laudani, Arrigo Giombini, Vincenzo Maria Saraceni, Pier Paolo Mariani, Fabio Pigozzi and Andrea Macaluso

Context:

Tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may disrupt the ability to recognize the knee position in space during limb-repositioning tasks, which is referred to as joint-position sense (JPS). Impairments in JPS have been shown to be lower during active than passive repositioning tasks, thus suggesting that coactivation patterns of the muscles surrounding the knee might compensate for the disrupted JPS and ensure accurate limb repositioning in ACL-deficient individuals.

Objective:

To investigate muscle coactivation patterns during JPS repositioning tasks in ACL-deficient and healthy individuals.

Design:

Prospective observational study.

Setting:

Functional assessment laboratory.

Participants:

8 men age 25 ± 8 y with isolated ACL rupture and 10 men age 30 ± 4 y with no history of knee injury.

Intervention:

JPS was evaluated by means of an electrogoniometer in a sitting position during either passive or active joint-positioning and -repositioning tasks with a 40° target knee angle.

Main Outcome Measures:

Root mean square (RMS) of the surface electromyogram from the vastus lateralis and biceps femoris muscles was measured during active joint positioning and repositioning.

Results:

Healthy participants showed a significant decrease in vastus lateralis RMS (−19%) and an increase in biceps femoris RMS (+26%) during joint repositioning compared with positioning. In contrast, ACL-deficient patients showed no modulation in muscle coactivation between joint positioning and repositioning, although they exhibited significantly lower RMS of the vastus lateralis (injured limb, −28%; uninjured limb, −21%) and higher RMS of the biceps femoris (injured limb, +19%; uninjured limb, +30%) than the healthy participants during joint positioning.

Conclusions:

The lack of modulation in muscle coactivation patterns between joint positioning and repositioning in ACL-deficient patients might be attributed to disrupted neural control after the injury-related loss of proprioceptive information. These results should be taken into account in the design of rehabilitation protocols with emphasis on muscle coactivation and JPS.

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Igor Setuain, Mikel Izquierdo, Fernando Idoate, Eder Bikandi, Esteban M. Gorostiaga, Per Aagaard, Eduardo L. Cadore and Jesús Alfaro-Adrián

Context:

The muscular function restoration related to the type of physical rehabilitation followed after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) using autologous hamstring tendon graft in terms of strength and cross-sectional area (CSA) remain controversial.

Objective:

To analyze the CSA and force output of quadriceps and hamstring muscles in subjects following either an Objective Criteria-Based Rehabilitation (OCBR) algorithm or the usual care (UCR) for ACL rehabilitation in Spain, before and 1 year after undergoing an ACLR.

Design:

Longitudinal clinical double-blinded randomized controlled trial.

Setting:

Sports-medicine research center.

Patients:

40 recreational athletes (30 male, 10 female [24 ± 6.9 y, 176.55 ± 6.6 cm, 73.58 ± 12.3 kg]).

Intervention:

Both groups conducted differentiated rehabilitation procedures after ACLR. Those belonging to OCBR group were guided in their recovery according to the current evidence-based principles. UCR group followed the national conventional approach for ACL rehabilitation.

Main Outcome Measures:

Concentric isokinetic knee joint flexor-extension torque assessments at 180°/s and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) evaluations were performed before and 12 months after ACLR. Anatomical muscle CSA (mm2) was assessed, in Quadriceps, Biceps femoris, Semitendinous, Semimembranosus, and Gracilis muscles at 50% and 70% femur length.

Results:

Reduced muscle CSA was observed in both treatment groups for Semitendinosus and Gracilis 1 year after ACLR. At 1-year follow-up, subjects allocated to the OCBR demonstrated greater knee flexor and extensor peak torque values in their reconstructed limbs in comparison with patients treated by UCR.

Conclusions:

Objective atrophy of Semitendinosus and Gracilis muscles related to surgical ACLR was found to persist in both rehabilitation groups. However, OCBR after ACLR lead to substantial gains on maximal knee flexor strength and ensured more symmetrical anterior-posterior laxity levels at the knee joint.

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Christopher Kuenze, Jay Hertel and Joseph M. Hart

Purpose:

Persistent quadriceps weakness due to arthrogenic muscle inhibition (AMI) has been reported after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Fatiguing exercise has been shown to alter lower extremity muscle function and gait mechanics, which may be related to injury risk. The effects of exercise on lower extremity function in the presence of AMI are not currently understood. The purpose of this study was to compare the effect of 30 min of exercise on quadriceps muscle function and soleus motoneuron-pool excitability in ACL-reconstructed participants and healthy controls.

Methods:

Twenty-six (13 women, 13 men) healthy and 26 (13 women, 13 men) ACL-reconstructed recreationally active volunteers were recruited for a case-control laboratory study. All participants completed 30 min of continuous exercise including alternating cycles of inclined-treadmill walking and bouts of squats and step-ups. Knee-extension torque, quadriceps central activation ratio (CAR), soleus H:M ratio, and soleus V:M ratio were measured before and after 30 min of exercise.

Results:

There was a significant group × time interaction for knee-extension torque (P = .002), quadriceps CAR (P = .03), and soleus V:M ratio (P = .03). The effect of exercise was smaller for the ACL-R group than for matched controls for knee-extension torque (ACL-R: %Δ = −4.2 [−8.7, 0.3]; healthy: %Δ = −14.2 [−18.2, −10.2]), quadriceps CAR (ACL-R: %Δ = −5.1 [−8.0, −2.1]; healthy: %Δ = −10.0 [−13.3, −6.7]), and soleus V:M ratio (ACL-R: %Δ = 37.6 [2.1, 73.0]; healthy: %Δ = −24.9 [−38.6, −11.3]).

Conclusion:

Declines in quadriceps and soleus volitional muscle function were of lower magnitude in ACL-R subjects than in healthy matched controls. This response suggests an adaptation experienced by patients with quadriceps AMI that may act to maintain lower extremity function during prolonged exercise.

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Michael E. Lynch and Christine A. Lauber

Clinical Question:

Is it beneficial to add neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to a strengthening program after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery?

Clinical Bottom Line:

There is sufficient evidence to support the inclusion of NMES in a rehabilitation strengthening program post ACL reconstruction. All three included studies reported significant quadriceps strength gains (p < .05) in favor of the group that completed both NMES and strengthening exercises compared with a strength-only group. Two studies initiated NMES within 4 days of surgery. One study found significant quadriceps strength increases when NMES was implemented 6 months after surgery.

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Jeffrey Paszkewicz, Tristen Webb, Brian Waters, Cailee Welch McCarty and Bonnie Van Lunen

Clinical Scenario:

There is a high incidence of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in adolescents participating in pivoting sports such as soccer, basketball, and handball. Most ACL injuries in athletes are noncontact injuries, with a mechanism of sudden deceleration, change in direction, or landing from a jump. These mechanisms coupled with an increase in contraction of the quadriceps have been shown as risk factors for ACL injuries. Injuries to the ACL may require surgery, a long rehabilitation, and the potential for reinjury. Studies have shown reductions in lower extremity injury rates using training protocols that focus on landing mechanics, balance training, strength training, and/or agility training. There has been some thought that starting preventive training programs with adolescent athletes may be the most effective approach to reducing adolescent ACL injuries.

Focused Clinical Question:

Can lower extremity injury-prevention programs effectively reduce ACL injury rates in adolescent athletes?

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Fiona McVeigh and Stephen M. Pack

Background:

Research involving long-term follow-up of patients after successful anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) has shown that return-to-sport rates are not as good as would be expected despite many patients’ having normal knee-function scores. The psychological component, specifically fear of reinjury, plays a critical role in determining patients’ return to play and is frequently underestimated. Little is known about the recognition and intervention from the therapist’s perspective.

Aim:

To gain a greater understanding of the views of sports rehabilitators and athletic rehabilitation therapists on recognition of fear of reinjury in clients after ACLR.

Method and Design:

A qualitative approach, consisting of semistructured interviews with a purposive sample of 8 participants, sports rehabilitators, or athletic rehabilitation therapists. This population has been largely unexamined in this context in previous research.

Main Findings:

Thematic analysis yielded 2 main themes: communication and education. Participants discussed the importance of communication in the client–therapist relationship and how it is used in addressing misinformation and fear of reinjury. All participants used education in outlining the rehabilitation pathway and dealing with those providing social support around the client. Issues emerged relating to therapists’ recognition of observable signs of fear of reinjury in the clinical setting. Overall, participants thought that fear of reinjury was not a barrier to return to play after ACLR.

Conclusion:

There is a need for more education of therapists on recognizing fear of reinjury and the appropriate use of psychological intervention skills as a method for dealing with this throughout the rehabilitation process.

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Dai Sugimoto, Jessica C. LeBlanc, Sarah E. Wooley, Lyle J. Micheli and Dennis E. Kramer

It is estimated that approximately 350,000 individuals undergo anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery in each year in the US. Although ACL-reconstruction surgery and postoperative rehabilitation are successfully completed, deficits in postural control remain prevalent in ACL-reconstructed individuals. In order to assist the lack of balance ability and reduce the risk of retear of the reconstructed ACL, physicians often provide a functional knee brace on the patients’ return to physical activity. However, it is not known whether use of the functional knee brace enhances knee-joint position sense in individuals with ACL reconstruction. Thus, the effect of a functional knee brace on knee-joint position sense in an ACL-reconstructed population needs be critically appraised. After systematically review of previously published literature, 3 studies that investigated the effect of a functional knee brace in ACL-reconstructed individuals using joint-position-sense measures were found. They were rated as level 2b evidence in the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine Level of Evidence chart. Synthesis of the reviewed studies indicated inconsistent evidence of a functional knee brace on joint-position improvement after ACL reconstruction. More research is needed to provide sufficient evidence on the effect of a functional knee brace on joint-position sense after ACL reconstruction. Future studies need to measure joint-position sense in closed-kinetic-chain fashion since ACL injury usually occurs under weight-bearing conditions.

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Kevin R. Ford, Christopher A. DiCesare, Gregory D. Myer and Timothy E. Hewett

Context: Biofeedback training enables an athlete to alter biomechanical and physiological function by receiving biomechanical and physiological data concurrent with or immediately after a task. Objective: To compare the effects of 2 different modes of real-time biofeedback focused on reducing risk factors related to anterior cruciate ligament injury. Design: Randomized crossover study design. Setting: Biomechanics laboratory and sports medicine center. Participants: Female high school soccer players (age 14.8 ± 1.0 y, height 162.6 ± 6.8 cm, mass 55.9 ± 7.0 kg; n = 4). Intervention: A battery of kinetic- or kinematic-based real-time biofeedback during repetitive double-leg squats. Main Outcome Measures: Baseline and posttraining drop vertical jumps were collected to determine if either feedback method improved high injury risk landing mechanics. Results: Maximum knee abduction moment and angle during the landing was significantly decreased after kinetic-focused biofeedback (P = .04). The reduced knee abduction moment during the drop vertical jumps after kinematic-focused biofeedback was not different (P = .2). Maximum knee abduction angle was significantly decreased after kinetic biofeedback (P < .01) but only showed a trend toward reduction after kinematic biofeedback (P = .08). Conclusions: The innovative biofeedback employed in the current study reduced knee abduction load and posture from baseline to posttraining during a drop vertical jump.