Thigh muscle weakness after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) can persist after returning to activity. While resistance training can improve muscle function, “nonfunctional” training methods are not optimal for inducing transfer of benefits to activities such as walking. Here, we tested the feasibility of a novel functional resistance training (FRT) approach to restore strength and function in an individual with ACLR.
FRT would improve knee strength and function after ACLR.
A 15-year-old male patient volunteered for an 8-week intervention where he performed 30 minutes of treadmill walking, 3 times per week, while wearing a custom-designed knee brace that provided resistance to the thigh muscles of his ACLR leg. Thigh strength, gait mechanics, and corticospinal and spinal excitability were assessed before and immediately after the 8-week intervention. Voluntary muscle activation was evaluated immediately after the intervention.
Knee extensor and flexor strength increased in the ACLR leg from pre- to posttraining (130 to 225 N·m [+74%] and 44 to 88 N·m [+99%], respectively) and increases in between-limb extensor and flexor strength symmetry (45% to 92% [+74%] and 47% to 72% [+65%], respectively) were also noted. After the intervention, voluntary muscle activation in the ACLR leg was 72%, compared with the non-ACLR leg at 75%. Knee angle and moment during late stance phase decreased (ie, improved) in the ACLR leg and appeared more similar to the non-ACLR leg after FRT training (18° to 14° [−23.4] and 0.07 to −0.02 N·m·kg−1·m−1[−122.8%], respectively). Corticospinal and spinal excitability in the ACLR leg decreased (3511 to 2511 [−28.5%] and 0.42 to 0.24 [−43.7%], respectively) from pre- to posttraining.
A full 8 weeks of FRT that targeted both quadriceps and hamstring muscles lead to improvements in strength and gait, suggesting that FRT may constitute a promising and practical alternative to traditional methods of resistance training.
FRT may serve as a viable approach to improve knee strength and function after ACL reconstruction.