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Am J Sports Med. 1988 Mar-Apr;16(2):113-22.

Muscular coactivation. The role of the antagonist musculature in maintaining knee stability.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans.


The objective of this study was to quantify the coactivation patterns of the knee flexor and extensor muscles as part of continued efforts to identify the role of the antagonist muscles in maintaining joint stability. The simultaneous EMG from the flexor and extensor muscles of the knee were recorded during maximal effort, slow isokinetic contractions (15 deg/sec) on the plane parallel to the ground to eliminate the effect of gravity. The processed EMG from the antagonist muscle was normalized with respect to its EMG as agonist at maximal effort for each joint angle. The plots of normalized antagonist EMG versus joint angle for each muscle group were shown to relate inversely to their moment arm variations over the joint range of motion. Additional calculations demonstrated that the antagonist exerts nearly constant opposing torque throughout joint range of motion. Comparison of data recorded from normal healthy subjects with that of high performance athletes with hypertrophied quadriceps demonstrated strong inhibitory effects on the hamstrings coactivations. Athletes who routinely exercise their hamstrings, however, had a coactivation response similar to that of normal subjects. We concluded that coactivation of the antagonist is necessary to aid the ligaments in maintaining joint stability, equalizing the articular surface pressure distribution, and regulating the joint's mechanical impedance. The reduced coactivation pattern of the unexercised antagonist to a hypertrophied muscle increases the risk of ligamentous damage, as well as demonstrates the adaptive properties of the antagonist muscle in response to exercise. It was also concluded that reduced risk of knee injuries in high performance athletes with muscular imbalance could result from complementary resistive exercise of the antagonist muscle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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