Muscle co-contraction during gait in individuals with articular cartilage defects in the knee

Louise M. Thoma, Michael P. McNally, Ajit M. Chaudhari, David C. Flanigan, Thomas M. Best, Robert A. Siston, Laura C. Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Increased muscle co-contraction during gait is common in individuals with knee pathology, and worrisome as it is known to amplify tibiofemoral compressive forces. While knees with articular cartilage defects (ACD) are more vulnerable to compressive forces, muscle co-contraction has never been reported in this population. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent to which individuals with ACDs in the knee demonstrate elevated quadriceps to hamstrings muscle co-contraction on the involved limb during gait compared to the uninvolved limb and to healthy controls. We also explored the impact of participant characteristics and knee impairments on co-contraction. Twenty-nine individuals with full-thickness knee ACDs (ACD group) and 19 healthy adults (control group) participated in this study. Participants performed five gait trials at self-selected speed, during which activity of the quadriceps and hamstrings muscles were collected with surface electromyography. Three-dimensional motion capture was used to define phases of gait. Quadriceps strength and self-reported outcomes were also assessed in the same session. There were no differences in quadriceps: hamstrings co-contraction between the ACD and control groups, or between the involved and uninvolved limb for the ACD group. For both ACD and control groups, co-contraction was highest in early stance and lowest in late stance. Quadriceps strength was consistently the strongest predictor of muscle co-contraction in both the ACD and the control groups, with individuals with lower strength demonstrating greater co-contraction. Further study is needed to understand the effect of increased muscle co-contraction on joint compressive forces in the presence of varied quadriceps strength.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-73
Number of pages6
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Chondral defects
  • Electromyography
  • Quadriceps strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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