UK Sports Medicine and the Biomotion Lab in the UK College of Health Sciences have partnered up to look at new ways to treat patients who have had a knee injury where they tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Even after surgery, many individuals go on to experience prolonged muscle weakness.
The role of myostatin in ACL surgery recovery
Muscle weakness – especially in the quadriceps and hamstrings – is common after surgery for a torn ACL, even with regular physical therapy. To help find out why this occurs, Dr. Darren L. Johnson and Dr. Brian Noehren received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to follow patients before and after ACL surgery. Johnson is director and chief of UK Sports Medicine, and Noehren is an associate professor in the Division of Physical Therapy and director of the Biomotion Lab. Investigators in the Biomotion Lab study everything from post-surgical orthopaedic injuries to runners with overuse injuries.
A protein called myostatin may play a key role in this post-operative weakness because it can cause atrophy of the muscle, Noehren and Johnson think. Their study will look at how and when levels of this protein change during the ACL surgery recovery process.
Benefits of the study
The results from this study could lead to the development of new treatments for patients recovering from ACL surgery that can reduce the long-term effects of a torn ACL, including osteoarthritis of the knee.
Additionally, the study’s benefits might provide wide-ranging benefits for patients with all kinds of orthopaedic injuries who have muscle weakness.
Helping patients in recovery
In this powerful partnership, UK Sports Medicine patients are the ones who benefit. Patients often don’t learn about the findings of a study, but Johnson and Noehren are able to share individual results with each patient to help their recovery process.
How the study works
Study participation is open to patients of Johnson who have torn ACLs and are between the ages of 15 to 35. Researchers analyze patients’ thigh muscles before surgery, as well as in the operating room. Patients return to the Biomotion Lab after surgery for more monitoring and analysis.
Scientists at the Biomotion Lab use 3D motion-capture technology to precisely track the angles patients’ leg joints make. This type of technology is also used to produce special effects in movies and video games, where an actor’s movements are translated into a computer-generated figure. In the Biomotion Lab, the 3D data show a detailed view of how patients move and use their joints.
Research receives national recognition
This study builds on other studies Johnson and Noehren have done together over the past five years, including studies published in leading journals such as The American Journal of Sports Medicine and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. Their latest study began in 2018 and will continue through 2023.
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