A new study has revealed that the quad muscles contract differently after ACL surgery. In many cases, this can lead to long-term weakness of the muscles.
Initially, the weakness experienced was thought to be down to shrinkage or muscle atrophy. However, now scientists have pinpointed a change in the way the muscles function, it paves the way for more effective rehabilitation programs.
Here we’ll look at what the new study found and how it could change ACL rehabilitation.
Understanding the new study
The new study, carried out by researchers from the University of Michigan, assessed 14 patients who were recovering from an ACL injury. They compared them to healthy subjects to see how the quad muscles functioned.
Ultrasonography was used to provide an image of the quad muscles when carrying out knee extensions. This was done in a machine known as an Isokinetic Dynamometer, used for measuring muscle strength. The researchers focused on the largest of the quad muscles, the vastus lateralis.
It was observed that after ACL reconstruction, the muscles contracted differently. A lot of the muscle fibres within the quad muscles didn’t lengthen as much as they should, and they were slower. This contributed to muscle weakness.
This showed that while muscle atrophy does contribute towards weakness, the difference in contraction also plays a role.
How does muscle atrophy contribute towards weak quads after surgery?
Muscle atrophy is caused by the muscles wasting away. This is typically due to a lack of activity. Patients who undergo ACL reconstruction can experience mobility issues as they recover. If too little physical activity is carried out, it can cause the muscles to waste away. This in turn would lead to long-term weakness of the muscles.
To avoid this potentially serious issue, patients need to ensure they are carrying out the recommended level of physical activity. A physiotherapist will be able to help prevent the condition through a specialised rehabilitation program.
Tips for strengthening the quads after ACL reconstruction
If you are undergoing an ACL reconstruction, there are ways to strengthen the quads to prevent muscle weakness.
As mentioned above, physiotherapy is one of the best ways to strengthen up the muscles after surgery. A trained physician will be able to ensure you carry out safe, effective exercises. You can also partake in cycling, walking backwards on a treadmill, and using an elliptical machine to build up strength. Just make sure you are doing these activities under the supervision of a specialist.
If you are due to undergo ACL reconstruction and you are worried about muscle weakness, book a consultation with Mr Jonathan Webb today. There are lots of things you can do to strengthen the muscles and reduce the risk of muscle weakness after an ACL reconstruction.