Background: The ultimate goal of anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions (ACLR) is to fulfil the return-to-play (RTP) criteria. Quadriceps muscle strength is one of the key determinants for a patient’s successful return-to-play after ACLR. Quadriceps muscle atrophy can persist beyond the completion of the rehabilitation program in almost half the patients and the reason behind this is still unknown. There are emerging evidences showing that pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) can modulate mitochondrial activities for muscle gain. PEMF exposure on top of regular exercise training may promote muscle regeneration and tissue healing.
Methods: This is a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of PEMF treatment during the postoperative period on quadriceps muscle strength in ACL injured patient. Adult patients (aged 18-30) with a unilateral ACL injury, total quadriceps muscle volume is equal or more than 7% deficit on involved leg compared with uninvolved leg, sporting injury with a Tegner score of 7+, and both knees without a history of injury/prior surgery will be recruited. To estimate the improvement of patients, isokinetic muscle assessment, ultrasound imaging and MRI for quadriceps muscle thickness, self-reported outcomes with questionnaires, KT-1000 for knee laxity and biomechanical analysis, and Xtreme CT for bone mineral density will be performed. To investigate the mechanism of PEMF therapy on increasing quadriceps strength, samples of blood serum will be drawn before and after intervention.
Discussion: This is the first trial evaluating the effects of PEMF on quadriceps muscle recovery after ACLR. The proposed study addresses a huge research gap by evaluating practical use of PEMF as part of rehabilitation. The proposed study will provide much needed scientific support in the use of this noninvasive treatment modality to facilitate recovery of quadriceps strength after PEMF.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05184023. Registered on 5 January 2022.
Keywords: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL); Anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions (ACLR); Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF); Quadriceps strength.