Early Gait Biomechanics Linked to Daily Steps Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

J Athl Train. 2024 Jan 31. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-0464.23. Online ahead of print.


Context: Gait biomechanics and daily steps are important aspects of knee joint loading that change following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). Understanding their relationship during the first 6 months post-ACLR could help develop comprehensive rehabilitation interventions that promote optimal joint loading following injury, thereby improving long-term knee joint health.

Objective: Our primary objective was to compare biomechanical gait waveforms throughout stance at early timepoints post-ACLR in individuals with different daily step behaviors at 6 months post-ACLR. The secondary aim was to examine how these gait waveforms compare to those of uninjured controls.

Design: Case-Control Study.

Setting: Laboratory.

Patients or other participants: Individuals with primary ACLR assigned to a low (LSG) (n=13) or high step group (HSG) (n=19) based on their average daily steps at 6 months post- ACLR, and uninjured matched controls (n=32).

Main outcome measure(s): Gait biomechanics were collected at 2, 4, and 6 months post-ACLR in ACLR individuals and at a single session for controls. Knee adduction moment (KAM), knee extension moment (KEM), and knee flexion angle (KFA) waveforms were calculated during gait stance and then compared via functional waveform analyses. Mean differences and corresponding 95% confident intervals between groups were reported.

Results: Primary results demonstrated lesser KFA (1-45%, 79-92% of stance) and greater KEM (65-93% of stance) at 2 months and greater KAM (14-20%, 68-92% of stance) at 4 months post-ACLR for the HSG compared to the LSG. KEM, KAM, and KFA waveforms differed across various proportions of stance at all timepoints between step groups and controls.

Conclusion: Differences in gait biomechanics are present at 2 and 4 months post-ACLR between step groups, with the LSG demonstrating an overall more flexed knee and more profound stepwise underloading throughout stance than the HSG. The results indicate a relation between early gait biomechanics and later daily steps behaviors following ACLR.

Keywords: joint loading; loading frequency; physical activity; posttraumatic osteoarthritis; waveform analysis.