Objective. Although cross-sectional studies have reported impaired proprioceptive acuity in people with osteoarthritis (OA), there have been no longitudinal studies to evaluate whether those with such impairments increase the risk of OA or its worsening. Methods. We studied subjects from the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study study, a longitudinal study of people with or at high risk of knee OA. At baseline, we quantified acuity as the amount of a subject's error when attempting to reproduce a test knee flexion angle (a measure of joint position sense). We tested proprioception 10 times in the right leg and used a person's worst score as their proprioceptive acuity. At baseline and the 30-month followup, we assessed the presence of frequent pain, obtained Western Ontario and McMasters Universities OA Index (WOMAC) scores, and acquired posteroanterior and lateral weight-bearing knee radiographs read for Kellgren/Lawrence grade and individual radiographic features. We examined the relation of baseline proprioceptive acuity in quartiles with baseline knee pain (frequent pain yes/no), WOMAC pain score, self-reported physical function, and radiographic OA, and with changes from baseline in pain, physical function, and radiographic OA adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, and quadriceps strength. Results. At baseline, proprioceptive acuity was associated with the presence and severity of knee pain but not with the presence of radiographic OA. However, among the 2,243 subjects with baseline acuity assessments and 30-month followup, there were no strong associations between proprioceptive acuity and development of adverse OA outcomes. Acuity was not significantly associated with the new onset of frequent knee pain. Those with the worst acuity at baseline had slightly greater worsening of WOMAC pain scores (0.47 on a 20-point scale) and physical function scores (by 1.5 points on a 0-68-point scale) compared with those with the best proprioceptive acuity, whose pain and physical function score deteriorated less (for pain P = 0.05; for physical function P = 0.02). Radiographic worsening was not significantly associated with proprioceptive acuity. Conclusion. Proprioceptive acuity as assessed by the accuracy of reproduction of the angle of knee flexion had modest effects on the trajectory of pain and physical functional limitation in knee OA.
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