Muscle activity onset prior to landing in patients after anterior cruciate ligament injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Sports Medicine Research Laboratory
Muscle activation during landing is paramount to stabilise lower limb joints and avoid abnormal movement patterns. Delayed muscle activity onset measured by electromyography (EMG) has been suggested to be associated with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Therefore, the aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to test the hypothesis if ACL-injured patients display different results for muscle onset timing during standard deceleration tasks compared to healthy control participants. PubMed, Embase, Scopus and ScienceDirect databases were systematically searched over the period from January 1980 to February 2015, yielding a total of 1461 citations. Six studies meeting inclusion criteria underwent quality assessment, data extraction and re-computing procedures for the meta-analysis. The quality was rated "moderate" for 2 studies and "poor" for 4. Patients included and procedures used were highly heterogeneous. The tasks investigated were single leg hopping, decelerating from running or walking, tested on a total of 102 ACL-injured participants and 86 controls. EMG analyses of the muscles vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, lateral and medial hamstrings revealed trivial and non-significant standardised mean differences (SMD<0.20; p>0.05) between patients and control participants. Furthermore, no differences were found between the contralateral leg of patients and controls for muscle activity onset of the medial and lateral gastrocnemius (SMD<0.20; p>0.05). Based on 3 studies, the involved legs of ACL-injured patients showed overall earlier muscle activity onset compared to control participants for the medial gastrocnemius (SMD = 0.5; p = 0.05). Similar results were found for the lateral gastrocnemius (SMD = 2.1; p<0.001), with a greater effect size but based only on a single study. We conclude that there are no differences between leg muscles of ACL-injured patients and healthy controls regarding the muscle activity onset during landing. However, current evidence is scarce and weak, which highlights the need for further research in this area.