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Abstract

Objective. To test the hypotheses that 1) knee position sense declines with age; 2) patients with osteoarthritis (OA) have worse knee position sense than elderly controls; and 3) knee position sense is correlated with functional status.

Methods. The threshold for detection of knee joint displacement was measured in 30 patients with bilateral knee OA (Kellgren/Lawrence grade ⩾2 in both knees), 29 elderly controls (who met clinical and radiographic criteria for exclusion of OA), and 25 young controls. Range of motion, laxity, radiographic severity, and functional status were also assessed.

Results. A moderate correlation was found between joint displacement detection threshold and age (r = 0.598 and r = 0.501 for the right knee and the left knee, respectively). The threshold was substantially and significantly different between the OA patients and the elderly controls. Proprioceptive impairment was associated with worse disease-specific functional status.

Conclusion. Proprioception declines with age, and is further impaired in elderly patients with knee OA. Poor proprioception may contribute to functional impairment in knee OA.