1. The relationship between joint damage, quadriceps weakness and arthrogenic muscle inhibition was investigated in eight patients who had sustained extensive traumatic knee injury. Isometric and isokinetic quadriceps and hamstring voluntary strength, and quadriceps arthrogenic muscle inhibition during isometric contractions, were measured before and after 4 weeks (approximately 100 h) of intensive rehabilitation.

2. Compared with the uninjured leg, before rehabilitation the injured leg had larger amounts of quadriceps arthrogenic muscle inhibition (P < 0.025), quadriceps (P < 0.0001) and hamstring (P < 0.0001) weakness and severe functional joint instability. There was a negative correlation between the amount of arthrogenic muscle inhibition and quadriceps voluntary contraction force (P < 0.025).

3. After rehabilitation in the injured leg there were small hamstring strength increases (P < 0.05–0.025), but no overall significant quadricep strength increase. Arthrogenic muscle inhibition was statistically unchanged. Severe functional joint instability was still reported by all patients.

4. Previous studies have shown that minimal joint damage evokes relatively less arthrogenic muscle inhibition that does not impede rehabilitation. These data indicate that greater joint damage is associated with greater arthrogenic muscle inhibition, quadriceps weakness and joint instability. Furthermore, intensive rehabilitation had little affect on either quadriceps arthrogenic muscle inhibition or atrophy.

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