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Quadriceps Function and Knee Joint Ultrasonography after ACL Reconstruction


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2018 - Volume 50 - Issue 2 - p 211–217
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001437

Purpose Individuals with anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) are at greater risk for knee osteoarthritis, partially because of chronic quadriceps dysfunction. Articular cartilage is commonly assessed using magnetic resonance imaging and radiography, but these methods are expensive and lack portability. Ultrasound imaging may provide a cost-effective and portable alternative for imaging the femoral cartilage. The purpose of this study was to compare ultrasonography of the femoral cartilage between the injured and uninjured limbs of individuals with unilateral ACLR, and to examine the association between quadriceps function and ultrasonographic measures of femoral cartilage.

Methods Bilateral femoral cartilage thickness and quadriceps function were assessed in 44 individuals with unilateral ACLR. Quadriceps function was assessed using peak isometric strength, and early (RTD100) and late (RTD200) rate of torque development.

Results Cartilage thickness at the medial femoral condyle (P < 0.001) and femoral cartilage cross-sectional area (P = 0.007) were smaller in the injured compared with the uninjured limb. After accounting for time since ACLR, quadriceps peak isometric strength was associated with cartilage thickness at the medial femoral condyle (r = 0.35, P = 0.02) and femoral cartilage cross-sectional area (r = 0.28, P = 0.04). RTD100 and RTD200 were not associated with femoral cartilage thickness or cross-sectional area.

Conclusions Individuals with ACLR have thinner cartilage in their injured limb compared with uninjured limb, and cartilage thickness is associated with quadriceps function. These results indicate that ultrasonography may be useful for monitoring cartilage health and osteoarthritis progression after ACLR.

Department of Kinesiology, California State University–Fullerton, Fullerton, CA

Address for correspondence: Derek N. Pamukoff, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology California State University–Fullerton, Fullerton, CA 92831; E-mail:

Submitted for publication April 2017.

Accepted for publication September 2017.

© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine