Background: It is unclear how cycling and running would differ in terms of changes in cartilage thickness. Also, given squats are a popular type of exercise used to strengthen lower limbs, it is critical to assess if loads used during resisted training could lead to changes in cartilage cushioning properties. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the effects of exercise mode in knee cartilage thickness.
Methods: This study utilized a randomized cross-over design with repeated measures. All sessions were completed between 48hrs and seven days, at the same time of the day. Fourteen (seven males and seven females) apparently healthy participants without musculoskeletal or neurological diseases volunteered for the study. Participants were assessed after squats and functional exercises (n = 18 knees) or after running and cycling (n = 10 knees). All ultrasound images were collected at participants' arrival in the laboratory (Baseline), after warm-up (Pre-exercise), after the completion of each exercise protocol (Post-exercise), and at five (5-min) and 10 minutes (10-min) after exercise.
Results: Cartilage thickness did not change after squats performed with 60% of 1-RM or after a set of three functional exercises (i.e. sit-to-stand, lunges, and step-ups; p = 0.68). However, longer duration exercises (i.e. cycling and running) led to increases in cartilage thickness after 5-min from the completion of the exercise (p = 0.02).
Conclusion: Knee cartilage may have capacity to sustain short-term cyclical loads applied during exercise (i.e. squats and functional exercises) but not to moderate duration exercises (i.e. cycling and running).