Comparison of Neuromuscular Firing Patterns of the Superficial Quadriceps in Soft Tissue Quadriceps Tendon Versus Bone-Patellar Tendon-Bone ACL Autografts.

Soft tissue quadriceps tendon (QT) autografts are increasingly popular as a primary graft choice for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR), but no study has compared superficial quadriceps activity levels and leg extension strength for QT versus bone-patellar tendon-bone (BTB) autografts.

HYPOTHESIS:
Harvesting the central portion of the QT will alter rectus femoris (RF) firing patterns during maximum voluntary isometric contraction.

METHODS:
A total of 34 patients (age range, 18-40 years) who underwent ACLR using a BTB (n = 17) or QT (n = 17) autograft at a single institution participated in this study. Participants, who had no neuromuscular injury or prior surgery on either lower extremity, were at least 1 year after ACLR, and were cleared for full activity. Postoperative rehabilitation protocols were consistent across participants. Synchronized electromyography (EMG) and isometric torque data were collected from participants in the seated position with the hips flexed to 90° and the knee at 60° of flexion. Participants were asked to extend their knees as quickly as possible and perform maximum voluntary isometric contraction for 3 seconds. A practice trial and 3 test trials were completed with 30-second rest intervals. Mixed (2 graft × 2 limb) analyses of variance were used to examine differences in average and peak torque values and RF/vastus lateralis (VL) and RF/vastus medialis (VM) ratios. Lysholm and International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) scores were compared between groups using unpaired t tests.

RESULTS:
Significantly lower values were seen for the operative compared with the nonoperative extremity for average (P = .008; η2 = 0.201) and peak torque (P < .0001; η2 = 0.321), with no significant difference between graft types. Additionally, no significant differences in RF/VL or RF/VM ratios between limbs or graft types were observed.CONCLUSION: At 1 year after ACLR, QT and BTB autografts showed similar isometric strength deficits, with no differences in quadriceps muscle EMG ratios seen between the 2 graft types. The results support the use of a QT autograft for ACLR, as its graft harvest does not adversely affect quadriceps firing patterns in comparison with BTB graft harvest.