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Dynamic stability after ACL injury: who can hop?

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  • 1Department of Physical Therapy, University of Delaware, Newark 19716, USA.


Single-leg hops are used clinically to assess knee function in patients following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture and reconstruction. Researchers study ACL-deficient individuals in order to identify movement strategies in the absence of a major knee stabilizer, thereby providing information to clinicians regarding treatment options. Single-leg hops represent an activity which places higher demands on the knee than walking or jogging. Hops are thought by some to represent demands that are more comparable to those found during high level sports. Therefore hopping might provide more information about knee stability during dynamic activities than less strenuous activities. This paper reflects one component of a larger study involving comparisons of joint motions and muscle activity patterns in uninjured individuals (n=10) and two groups of athletes who had complete ACL ruptures; one group had substantial knee instability (noncopers, n=10), and the other had no signs of knee instability (copers, n=11). In this paper we report the findings from the single-leg hop activity. The results indicate that coper subjects move in a manner nearly identical to uninjured persons. Kinetic data suggest that copers stabilize their knees with greater contributions from the ankle extensor muscles. Muscle activity data demonstrate that there is no reduction in quadriceps femoris activity in the coper subjects. In the group of ten subjects with knee instability (noncopers) who participated in the overall study involving walking, jogging, hopping, and a step activity only four were willing to hop. Work in our laboratory has established that when high level athletes rupture their ACL, the majority of them cannot return to high level sports. The small number of noncopers in this study who were willing to hop supports our previous findings. Those noncopers who did hop displayed reduced knee range of motion and external knee flexion moments, a movement strategy remarkably similar to that found during other activities. Neither the copers nor the noncopers showed evidence that quadriceps activation was diminished.

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