Neuroplasticity in corticolimbic brain regions in patients after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Shelby Baez, Anders Andersen, Richard Andreatta, Marc Cormier, Phillip A. Gribble, Johanna Marie Hoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Context: Fear has been cited as the primary barrier to return to sport (RTS) by athletes after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). Understanding the neural factors that contribute to fear after ACLR may help us to identify interventions for this population. Objective: To characterize the underlying neural substrate of injury-related fear in patients after ACLR versus healthy matched control individuals during a picture imagination task (PIT) consisting of sport-specific images and images of activities of daily living (ADL). Design: Case-control study. Setting: Research laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: A total of 24 right-hand–dominant participants (12 with left-sided ACLR and 12 control individuals) were enrolled. Participants underwent full-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging. Main Outcome Measure(s): Functional data were acquired using blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) echoplanar imaging. Independent t tests were conducted to identify between-groups differences in BOLD signal changes during all images of the PIT. Paired t tests were computed to examine differences in BOLD signal change between sport-specific and ADL images in the ACLR group. Results: Increased activation in the inferior parietal lobule and the mediodorsal thalamus was observed during PIT in the ACLR group. An inability to suppress the default mode network in the ACLR group was noted. The ACLR group exhibited increased activation in the cerebellum and inferior occipital regions during the sport-specific images versus the ADL images, but no other regions of interest demonstrated differences. Conclusion: After ACLR, patients may be more predisposed to fear, anxiety, and pain during sport-specific activities and ADLs. Psychosocial interventions may be warranted after ACLR to reduce injury-related fear and mitigate potentially maladaptive neuroplasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-426
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Inc


  • Fear
  • Knee
  • Neuroscience
  • Sport injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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