The influence of age on weight-bearing joint reposition sense of the knee
Knee joint-position sensitivity has been shown to decline with increasing age, with much of the research reported in the literature investigating this age effect in non-weight-bearing (NWB) conditions. However, little data is available in the more functional position of weight-bearing conditions. The objective of this study was to identify the influence of age on the accuracy and nature of knee joint-position sense (JPS) in both full weight-bearing (FWB) and partial weight-bearing (PWB) conditions and to determine the effect of lower-extremity dominance on knee JPS. Sixty healthy subjects from three age groups (young: 20–35 years old, middle-aged: 40–55 years, and older: 60–75 years) were assessed. Tests were conducted on both the right and left legs to examine the ability of subjects to correctly reproduce knee angles in an active criterion-active repositioning paradigm. Knee angles were measured in degrees using an electromagnetic tracking device, Polhemus 3Space Fastrak, that detected positions of sensors placed on the test limb. Errors in FWB knee joint repositioning did not increase with age, but significant age-related increases in knee joint-repositioning error were found in PWB. It was found that elderly subjects tended to overshoot the criterion angle more often than subjects from the young and middle-aged groups. Subjects in all three age groups performed better in FWB than in PWB. Differences between the stance-dominant (STD) and skill-dominant (SKD) legs did not reach significance. Results demonstrated that for, normal pain-free individuals, there is no age-related decline in knee JPS in FWB, although an age effect does exist in PWB. This outcome challenges the current view that a generalised decline in knee joint proprioception occurs with age. In addition, lower-limb dominance is not a factor in acuity of knee JPS.