The causes of persistent muscle weakness after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) are not well known. Changes in muscle oxygenation have been proposed as a possible mechanism.
To investigate changes in quadriceps muscle oxygenation during knee extension in ACLR-involved and ACLR-uninvolved limbs.
A total of 20 individuals: 10 patients with primary, unilateral ACLR (7 women, 3 men; age = 22.90 ± 3.45 years, height = 170.81 ± 7.93 cm, mass = 73.7 ± 15.1 kg) and 10 matched control individuals (7 women, 3 men; age = 21.50 ± 2.99 years, height = 170.4 ± 10.7 cm, mass = 68.86 ± 9.51 kg).
Each participant completed a single data-collection session consisting of 5-second isometric contractions at 25%, 50%, and 75% of the volitional maximum followed by a 30-second maximal isometric knee-extension contraction.
Oxygenated hemoglobin (O2Hb) measures in the reconstructed thigh were continuously recorded (versus the uninvolved contralateral limb as well as the nondominant thigh of healthy control individuals) using 3 wearable, wireless near-infrared spectroscopy units placed superficially to the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris muscles. Relative changes in oxygenation were ensemble averaged and plotted for each contraction intensity with associated 90% confidence intervals (CIs). Statistical significance occurred where portions of the exercise trials with confidence intervals on the O2Hb graph did not overlap. Effect sizes (Cohen d, 90% CI) were determined for statistical significance.
We observed less relative change in O2Hb in patients with ACLR than in healthy control participants in the rectus femoris at 25% (d = 2.1; 90% CI = 1.5, 2.7), 50% (d = 2.8; 90% CI = 2.6, 2.9), and 75% (d = 2.0; 90% CI = 1.9, 2.2) and for the vastus medialis at 75% (d = 1.5; 90% CI = 1.4, 1.5) and 100% (d = 2.6; 90% CI = 2.5, 2.7). Less relative change in O2Hb was also noted for the vastus medialis in ACLR-involved versus ACLR-uninvolved limbs at 100% (d = 2.62; 90% CI = 2.54, 2.70).
Quadriceps muscle oxygenation during exercise differed between patients with ACLR versus healthy control individuals. However, not all portions of the quadriceps were affected uniformly across contraction intensities.