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Loading Behaviors Do Not Match Loading Abilities Postanterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 8 - p 1626–1634
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001956

Purpose Strategies that underload the surgical limb after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLr) are observed in submaximal tasks. It is not known what underlies these strategies in early rehabilitation. The purpose of this study was to determine if underloading can be attributed to the inability to meet task demands with and without attention to limb loading or learned behavior.

Methods Twenty individuals (110.6 [18.1] days) post-ACLr and 20 healthy individuals (CTRL) participated in this study. Participants performed standing, sit-to-stand, and squat tasks under natural, instructed, and feedback conditions. Limb-loading symmetry was calculated as the between-limb ratio of vertical ground reaction force impulse during each task. General Linear Model repeated-measures analysis, 2 (group) × 3 (condition), determined the effects of group and condition on limb-loading symmetry for each task.

Results Significant interactions were observed for each task (all P < 0.001). Compared with CTRL, ACLr exhibited greater asymmetry during natural (deficits: standing, 10%, P = 0.001; sit-to-stand, 25%, P < 0.001; squat, 15%, P < 0.001) and instructed (deficits: sit-to-stand, 13%, P = 0.001; squat, 8%, P = 0.04), but not feedback conditions. The CTRL maintained symmetry across conditions and tasks. Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction exhibited greater asymmetry in natural compared with instructed (deficits: standing, 11%, P < 0.001; sit-to-stand, 14%, P < 0.001; squat, 8%, P = 0.001) and feedback (deficits: standing, 10%, P = 0.001; sit-to-stand, 21%, P < 0.001; squat, 15%, P < 0.001) conditions.

Conclusions The presence of loading asymmetries in natural but not feedback conditions indicates that individuals 3 months post-ACLr shift loading away from surgical limb despite the ability to meet task demands which may be suggestive of nonuse behavior. Even when instructed to load symmetrically, individuals continued to exhibit some degree of asymmetry.

Human Performance Laboratory, Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Address for correspondence: Ming-Sheng Chan, Ph.D., 1540 Alcazar St, CHP 155, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9006; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2018.

Accepted for publication February 2019.

Online date: February 21, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine