It has been proposed that proprioceptive impairments observed in knee osteoarthritis (OA) may be associated with disease-related changes in joint mechanics. The aim of this study was to quantify joint proprioception and stiffness in the frontal plane of the knee in persons with and without knee OA and to report the associations between these 2 metrics. Participants were 13 patients with knee OA and 14 healthy age-matched subjects. Proprioceptive acuity was assessed in varus and valgus using the threshold to detection of passive movement (TDPM) test. Passive joint stiffness was estimated as the slope of the normalized torque-angle relationship at 0° joint rotation (neutral) and several rotations in varus and valgus. Analyses of variance were performed to determine the effect of OA and sex on each metric. Linear regression was used to assess the correlation between the TDPM and joint stiffness. The TDPM was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in the OA group compared to the control group for both varus and valgus, but significant sex differences were observed. Passive joint stiffness was significantly reduced (P < 0.05) in OA participants compared to the control group in neutral and valgus, but not varus, and significantly reduced in women compared to men. A weak negative correlation was observed between the TDPM and stiffness estimates, suggesting that poorer proprioception was associated with less joint stiffness. While both joint stiffness and proprioception were reduced in the OA population, they were only weakly correlated. This suggests that other neurophysiologic factors play a larger role in the proprioceptive deficits in knee OA.
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