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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Quadriceps force generation in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and asymptomatic participants during patellar tendon reflex reactions: an exploratory cross-sectional study

John Dixon1* and Tracey E Howe2

Author Affiliations

1 Teesside Centre for Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Teesside, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK

2 HealthQWest, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, UK

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2005, 6:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-46

Published: 1 September 2005



It has been postulated that muscle contraction is slower in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee than asymptomatic individuals, a factor that could theoretically impair joint protection mechanisms. This study investigated whether patients with osteoarthritis of the knee took longer than asymptomatic participants to generate force during reflex quadriceps muscle contraction. This was an exploratory study to inform sample size for future studies.


An exploratory observational cross sectional study was carried out. Two subject groups were tested, asymptomatic participants (n = 17), mean (SD) 56.7 (8.6) years, and patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, diagnosed by an orthopaedic surgeon, (n = 16), age 65.9 (7.8) years. Patellar tendon reflex responses were elicited from participants and measured with a load cell. Force latency, contraction time, and force of the reflex response were determined from digitally stored data. The Mann-Whitney U test was used for the between group comparisons in these variables. Bland and Altman within-subject standard deviation values were calculated to evaluate the measurement error or precision of force latency and contraction time.


No significant differences were found between the groups for force latency (p = 0.47), contraction time (p = 0.91), or force (p = 0.72). The two standard deviation measurement error values for force latency were 27.9 ms for asymptomatic participants and 16.4 ms for OA knee patients. For contraction time, these values were 29.3 ms for asymptomatic participants and 28.1 ms for OA knee patients. Post hoc calculations revealed that the study was adequately powered (80%) to detect a difference between the groups of 30 ms in force latency. However it was inadequately powered (59%) to detect this same difference in contraction time, and 28 participants would be required in each group to reach 80% power.


Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee do not appear to have compromised temporal parameters or magnitude of force generation during patellar tendon reflex reactions when compared to a group of asymptomatic participants. However, these results suggest that larger studies are carried out to investigate this area further.