BACKGROUND:Meniscus injury and meniscectomy both entail increased risk of knee osteoarthritis (OA). Thigh muscle weakness is a suggested mediator of OA but there is little evidence of its importance for knee OA development after meniscectomy. This study aimed to examine the association between thigh muscle strength after partial meniscectomy in middle-aged subjects with a non-traumatic meniscal tear and later radiographic knee OA changes. METHODS:Thirty-four out of 45 participants in an exercise-trial underwent testing for isokinetic thigh muscle strength 4 years after arthroscopic partial meniscectomy and had radiographic examination 11 years later (15 years post-surgery, mean age at follow-up of 57 years (range 50-61)). Outcomes were grade of joint space narrowing and osteophyte score in the medial tibiofemoral compartment of the operated knee and the contralateral knee. We tested the association between muscle strength at baseline and the radiographic outcomes at follow-up using logistic regression analyses adjusted for sex and overweight. RESULTS:At follow-up, 33/34 subjects had joint space narrowing and 27/34 subjects had osteophytes in the operated knee, in the contralateral knee joint space narrowing was found in 23 subjects. In the operated knee baseline knee extensor and flexor strength were negatively associated with grade of joint space narrowing at follow-up (OR 0.972 and 0.956, p = 0.028 and 0.026, respectively) and also with osteophyte score (OR 0.968 and 0.931, p = 0.017 and 0.011, respectively). In the contralateral knee longitudinal associations between strength and radiographic OA features were similar, OR 0.949-0.972, p < 0.05. CONCLUSION:The finding that stronger thigh muscles 4 years after meniscectomy were associated with less severe osteoarthritic changes in the medial tibiofemoral compartment of both the operated and contralateral knee 11 years later, may suggest that strong thigh muscles can help to preserve joint integrity in middle-aged subjects at risk of knee OA.