High muscle co-contraction does not result in high joint forces during gait in anterior cruciate ligament deficient knees

Ashutosh Khandha, Kurt Manal, Jacob Capin, Elizabeth Wellsandt, Adam Marmon, Lynn Snyder-Mackler, Thomas S. Buchanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The mechanism of knee osteoarthritis development after anterior cruciate ligament injuries is poorly understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate knee gait variables, muscle co-contraction indices and knee joint loading in young subjects with anterior cruciate ligament deficiency (ACLD, n = 36), versus control subjects (n = 12). A validated, electromyography-informed model was used to estimate joint loading. For the involved limb of ACLD subjects versus control, muscle co-contraction indices were higher for the medial (p = 0.018, effect size = 0.93) and lateral (p = 0.028, effect size = 0.83) agonist–antagonist muscle pairs. Despite higher muscle co-contraction, medial compartment contact force was lower for the involved limb, compared to both the uninvolved limb (mean difference = 0.39 body weight, p = 0.009, effect size = 0.70) as well as the control limb (mean difference = 0.57 body weight, p = 0.007, effect size = 1.14). Similar observations were made for total contact force. For involved versus uninvolved limb, the ACLD group demonstrated lower vertical ground reaction force (mean difference = 0.08 body weight, p = 0.010, effect size = 0.70) and knee flexion moment (mean difference = 1.32% body weight * height, p = 0.003, effect size = 0.76), during weight acceptance. These results indicate that high muscle co-contraction does not always result in high knee joint loading, which is thought to be associated with knee osteoarthritis. Long-term follow-up is required to evaluate how gait alterations progress in non-osteoarthritic versus osteoarthritic subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-112
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • ACL
  • joint forces
  • knee
  • muscle co-contraction
  • musculoskeletal modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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