Atypical Lower Limb Mechanics During Weight Acceptance of Stair Descent at Different Time Frames After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Am J Sports Med. 2022 Jul;50(8):2125-2133. doi: 10.1177/03635465221095236. Epub 2022 May 23.


Background: An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture may result in poor sensorimotor knee control and, consequentially, adapted movement strategies to help maintain knee stability. Whether patients display atypical lower limb mechanics during weight acceptance of stair descent at different time frames after ACL reconstruction (ACLR) is unknown.

Purpose: To compare the presence of atypical lower limb mechanics during the weight acceptance phase of stair descent among athletes at early, middle, and late time frames after unilateral ACLR.

Study design: Controlled laboratory study.

Methods: A total of 49 athletes with ACLR were classified into 3 groups according to time after ACLR-early (<6 months; n = 17), middle (6-18 months; n = 16), and late (>18 months; n = 16)-and compared with asymptomatic athletes (control; n = 18). Sagittal plane hip, knee, and ankle angles; angular velocities; moments; and powers were compared between the ACLR groups' injured and noninjured legs and the control group as well as between legs within groups using functional data analysis methods.

Results: All 3 ACLR groups showed greater knee flexion angles and moments than the control group for injured and noninjured legs. For the other outcomes, the early group had, compared with the control group, less hip power absorption, more knee power absorption, lower ankle plantarflexion angle, lower ankle dorsiflexion moment, and less ankle power absorption for the injured leg and more knee power absorption and higher vertical ground reaction force for the noninjured leg. In addition, the late group showed differences from the control group for the injured leg revealing more knee power absorption and lower ankle plantarflexion angle. Only the early group took a longer time than the control group to complete weight acceptance and demonstrated asymmetry for multiple outcomes.

Conclusion: Athletes with different time frames after ACLR revealed atypically large knee angles and moments during weight acceptance of stair descent for both the injured and the noninjured legs. These findings may express a chronically adapted strategy to increase knee control. In contrast, atypical hip and ankle mechanics seem restricted to an early time frame after ACLR.

Clinical relevance: Rehabilitation after ACLR should include early training in controlling weight acceptance. Including a control group is essential when evaluating movement patterns after ACLR because both legs may be affected.

Keywords: ACL; biomechanics; functional data analysis; motion analysis; stepping down.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries* / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction* / rehabilitation
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Lower Extremity