Unilateral Strength Training Imparts a Cross-Education Effect in Unilateral Knee Osteoarthritis Patients

Warren Bowen, Ashlyn K. Frazer, Jamie Tallent, Alan J. Pearce, Dawson J. Kidgell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Worldwide, 86 million individuals over the age of 20 were diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis (KOA) in 2020. Hallmark features of KOA are the loss in knee extensor strength, increasing knee pain severity, and deficits in functional performance. There is a critical need for the investigation into potential cost-effective therapeutic interventions in the treatment of KOA. A potential therapeutic option is the cross-education phenomenon. Methods: This was a non-blinded randomized control trial, with a 4-week intervention, with a pre, post and follow-up assessment (3 months post intervention). Outcome measures of isometric knee extensor strength, rectus femoris muscle thickness and neuromuscular activation were assessed at all-time points. Results: Compared to age-matched KOA controls, 4 weeks of unilateral strength training in end-stage KOA patients increased strength of the untrained affected KOA limb by 20% (p < 0.05) and reduced bilateral hamstring co-activation in the KOA intervention group compared to the KOA control group (p < 0.05). Conclusions: A 4-week-long knee extensor strength training intervention of the contralateral limb in a cohort with diagnosed unilateral KOA resulted in significant improvements to knee extensor strength and improved neuromuscular function of the KOA limb. Importantly, these results were maintained for 3 months following the intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number77
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • cross-education
  • functional performance
  • knee osteoarthritis
  • pain
  • strength training

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