The importance of the contralateral limb in unilateral knee osteoarthritis

W. Bowen, R. Hau, P. Li, D. Kidgell

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractOtherpeer-review


Background: The contralateral limb in individuals with unilateral knee osteoarthritis (OA) plays a pivotal role in compensating for OA knee extensor weakness and in reducing aggravation of the OAknee, during functional task such as rising from a chair and negotiating stairs. While directly training the OA limbs helps restore strength and function, it has low adherence rates due to the pain and aggravation of directly training this limb. Cross education is a neurological phenomenon, in which a unilateral strength training stimulus results in a strength increase in both the trained muscle group and untrained contralateral homologous muscle group. Cross education in a unilateral OA cohort may be beneficial as increasing the strength of the contralateral limb will increase its capability to compensate during functional tasks, and it may increase the strength of the OA limb without directly strength training. The purpose for this study was to determine the effectiveness of unilateral strength training in increasing strength of both limbs and its influence on functional performance in participants with severe knee OA. Methods: 7 OA knee subjects (65.5±7.9) and 6 healthy control subjects (64±3.8) have participated and completed the study to date. OA knee subjects completed 12 training sessions over 4 weeks that involved 4 sets of 8–10 repetitions of horizontal leg press. Testing was conducted immediately before and after the 4 week training program and again at 12 weeks following the intervention. Testing included isometric MVC knee extension, Timed Up and Go (TUG), Stair Climb Test (SCT), Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS). Results: Strength of the knee extensors of the trained limb improved by 22% (±23%); untrained knee extensor strength improved by15%(±9%);TUGimproved by 25.2% (±12%) and the SCT improved by 23.7% (±14%); KOOS ADL improved by 20% (P < .05); KOOS Pain improved by 10% (P < .05); KOOS QOL improved by 31% (P < .05). Three month post intervention data is currently being collected. Discussion: Unilateral leg press of the contralateral limb in subjects with unilateral knee OA, results in significant strength gains to both limbs with no symptoms or reported aggravation of the OA limb. It also results in improved functional performance as measured by the TUG and SCT, whilst subjectively participants reported improvements in pain, quality of life and activities of daily living.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e17-e17
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventBe Active Sports Medicine Australia National Conference 2014 - Canberra, Australia
Duration: 15 Oct 201418 Oct 2014

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