Knee joint laxity affects muscle activation patterns in the healthy knee



Document Type

Journal Article

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Publication Title

Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology





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Anterior cruciate ligament, Long latency reflex, Proprioception, Sensory, Surface electromyography


This study investigated the effects of anterior knee joint laxity on muscle activation patterns prior to and following a lower extremity perturbation. Participants were subjected to a forward and either internal (IR) or external (ER) rotation perturbation of the trunk and thigh on the weight-bearing shank. Pre-activity (%MVIC) before the perturbation, and reflex time (ms) and mean reflex amplitude (%MVIC) following the perturbation were recorded via surface electromyography (sEMG) in the medial and lateral gastrocnemius, hamstring and quadriceps muscles. Twenty-one NCAA DI intercollegiate female athletes with below average anterior knee laxity (3-5 mm) were compared to 21 with above average anterior knee laxity (7-14 mm) as measured by a standard knee arthrometer. Groups differed in reflex timing by muscle (P=0.013), with females with above average knee laxity (KT(>7mm)) demonstrating a 16 ms greater delay in biceps femoris reflex timing compared to females with below average knee laxity (KT(<5mm)). Groups also differed in muscle activation amplitude by response, muscle and direction of rotation (i.e. a 4-way interaction; P=0.027). The magnitude of change from pre to post perturbation was significantly less in KT(>7mm) vs. KT(<5mm) for the medial (MG) and lateral (LG) gastrocnemius muscles, primarily due to higher levels of muscle preactivity while awaiting the perturbation (MG=20% vs. 12% MVIC, P=0.05; LG=33% vs. 21% MVIC, P=0.11). Further, KT(>7mm) demonstrated higher activation levels in the biceps femoris than KT (<5mm) (47% vs. 27% MVIC; P=0.025) regardless of response (pre vs. post perturbation) or direction of rotation. These findings suggest females with increased knee laxity may be less sensitive to joint displacement or loading (delayed reflex), and are more reliant on active control of the gastrocnemius and biceps femoris muscles to potentially compensate for reduced passive joint stability. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Open Access

Green Accepted