Background. The aim of this study was to compare muscle activation onset times of knee muscles between the involved and uninvolved knee of patients with unilateral anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR), and the uninjured knees of healthy subjects after a controlled perturbation at the ankle level. Methods. Fifty male amateur soccer players, 25 with unilateral ACLR using semitendinosus-gracilis graft (age = 28.36 ± 7.87 years; time after surgery = 9 ± 3 months) and 25 uninjured control subjects (age = 24.16 ± 2.67 years) participated in the study. Two destabilizing platforms (one for each limb) generated a controlled perturbation at the ankle of each participant (30° of inversion, 10° plantarflexion simultaneously) in a weight bearing condition. The muscle activation onset times of semitendinosus (ST) and vastus medialis (VM) was detected through an electromyographic (EMG) analysis to assess the neuromuscular function of knee muscles. Results. Subjects with ACLR had significant delays in EMG onset in the involved (VM = 99.9 ± 30 ms; ST = 101.7 ± 28 ms) and uninvolved knee (VM = 100.4 ± 26 ms; ST = 104.7 ± 28 ms) when compared with the healthy subjects (VM = 69.1 ± 9 ms; ST = 74.6 ± 9 ms). However, no difference was found between involved and uninvolved knee of the ACLR group. Discussion. The results show a bilateral alteration of knee muscles in EMG onset after a unilateral ACLR, responses that can be elicited with an ankle perturbation. This suggests an alteration in the central processing of proprioceptive information and/or central nervous system re-organization that may affect neuromuscular control of knee muscles in the involved and uninvolved lower limbs.
- Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction
- Neuromuscular control
- Surface electromyography