Knee joint instability is frequently reported by patients with knee osteoarthritis (KOA). Objective metrics to assess knee joint instability are lacking, making it difficult to target therapies aiming to improve stability. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare responses in neuromechanics to perturbations during gait in patients with self-reported knee joint instability (KOA-I) versus patients reporting stable knees (KOA-S) and healthy control subjects. Forty patients (20 KOA-I and 20 KOA-S) and 20 healthy controls were measured during perturbed treadmill walking. Knee joint angles and muscle activation patterns were compared using statistical parametric mapping and discrete gait parameters. Furthermore, subgroups (moderate versus severe KOA) based on Kellgren and Lawrence classification were evaluated. Patients with KOA-I generally had greater knee flexion angles compared to controls during terminal stance and during swing of perturbed gait. In response to deceleration perturbations the patients with moderate KOA-I increased their knee flexion angles during terminal stance and pre-swing. Knee muscle activation patterns were overall similar between the groups. In response to sway medial perturbations the patients with severe KOA-I increased the co-contraction of the quadriceps versus hamstrings muscles during terminal stance. Patients with KOA-I respond to different gait perturbations by increasing knee flexion angles, co-contraction of muscles or both during terminal stance. These alterations in neuromechanics could assist in the assessment of knee joint instability in patients, to provide treatment options accordingly. Furthermore, longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the consequences of altered neuromechanics due to knee joint instability on the development of KOA.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Dutch arthritis foundation (ReumaNederland) [grant number 15-1-402, 2015]. The authors confirm that there was no involvement of study sponsors on the study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, in the writing of the manuscript and in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
© 2021 The Authors