Abstract

We measured joint position sense in the knee by a new method which tests the proprioceptive contribution of the joint capsule and ligaments. The leg was supported on a splint, and held in several positions of flexion. The subjects' perception of the position was recorded on a visual analogue model and compared with the actual angle of flexion. Eighty-one normal and 45 osteoarthritic knees were examined, as were 10 knees with semi-constrained and 11 with hinged joint replacements. All were assessed with and without an elastic bandage around the knee. There was a steady decline in joint position sense with age in subjects with normal knees. Those with osteoarthritic knees had impaired joint position sense at all ages (p less than 0.001). Knee replacement improved the joint position sense slightly (p less than 0.02); semi-constrained replacement had a greater effect than hinged replacement. The effect of an elastic bandage in subjects with poor position sense was dramatic, improving accuracy by 40% (p less than 0.001). It is proposed that reduced proprioception in elderly and osteoarthritic subjects may be responsible for initiation or advancement of degeneration of the knee.