Purpose: Objectives of this study were to examine the perceived sense of knee joint position during selected test situations, and to evaluate the proposed kinesthetic effect of a neoprene knee sleeve during these test situations.
Methods: Fifty-nine young healthy subjects (39 females and 20 males) attempted to replicate target knee joint angles using active and passive knee extension movements completed in sitting (nonaxially loaded) situations, and during active knee extension movements completed in supine while applying a load of 15% body weight through the long axis of the tibia (axially loaded). The criterion measure used was the absolute difference between target and reproduced angles, averaged over five attempts (Average absolute difference: AAD).
Results: A three-way ANOVA (two genders by three test situations by two sleeve conditions), with repeated measures on the last two factors, indicated a significant main effect for test situation and sleeve condition (P < 0.05), but not for gender. There was also a significant test situation by sleeve condition interaction (P < 0.05). Post-hoc analysis indicated that the AAD score during the active nonaxially loaded test situation without the sleeve was significantly greater than AAD scores for all other tests (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Pre-existing differences in knee joint kinesthesis observed during different contexts of limb movement must be recognized before various interventions, including the effect of knee supports, can be adequately interpreted. Because knee joint position sense was attenuated during voluntary active movement, and because this attenuation was ameliorated by the use of a sleeve, future studies evaluating the kinesthetic effects of knee bracing may benefit from using active movements. However, since the sleeve did not affect performance during the axially loaded test situation, future studies should also evaluate the relationship between tests of knee joint kinesthesis and other more functional tests of neuromuscular performance.