Background: Muscle weakness is characteristic of knee osteoarthritis. Muscle steadiness may be an important adjunct to knee muscle strength in improving physical function in knee osteoarthritis. However, the role of muscle steadiness is uncertain. Aims: To determine the associations of knee extensor muscle steadiness with maximal voluntary torque and physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Methods: Baseline data from 177 patients in a randomized clinical trial were used. Isokinetic knee extension torque was processed into maximal voluntary torque [Nm]. Muscle steadiness was expressed as the coefficient of variance [%] and as peak power frequency [Hz]. Physical function was assessed using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, the Get-Up-and-Go and Stair-climb tests. Associations were determined using regression analyses and adjusted for confounders. Findings: Lower muscle steadiness (i.e., higher coefficient of variance and peak power frequency) was associated with lower maximal voluntary torque (B = − 7.38, [−10.8, −3.95], R2 = 0.10 and B = −14.71, [−28.29, −1.13], R2 = 0.03, respectively). Higher coefficient of variance was associated with lower self-reported physical function (B = 1.14, [0.11,2.17], R2 = 0.03) and remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders. Peak power frequency was not associated with physical function. Interpretation: Low muscle steadiness was weakly associated with low muscle strength and poorer self-reported physical function. Muscle steadiness and muscle strength seem to be different attributes of muscle function. There is no convincing evidence that muscle steadiness is an important adjunct in studying physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
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