Knee joint laxity and neuromuscular characteristics of male and female soccer and basketball players

Am J Sports Med. 1999 May-Jun;27(3):312-9. doi: 10.1177/03635465990270030801.


Anterior cruciate ligament injuries are occurring at a higher rate in female athletes compared with their male counterparts. Research in the area of anterior cruciate ligament injury has increasingly focused on the role of joint proprioception and muscle activity in promoting knee joint stability. We measured knee joint laxity, joint kinesthesia, lower extremity balance, the amount of time required to generate peak torque of the knee flexor and extensor musculature, and electromyographically assessed muscle activity in 34 healthy, collegiate-level athletes (average age, 19.6 +/- 1.5 years) who played soccer or basketball or both. Independent t-tests were used to determine significant sex differences. Results revealed that women inherently possess significantly greater knee joint laxity values, demonstrate a significantly longer time to detect the knee joint motion moving into extension, possess significantly superior single-legged balance ability, and produce significantly greater electromyographic peak amplitude and area of the lateral hamstring muscle subsequent to landing a jump. The excessive joint laxity of women appears to contribute to diminished joint proprioception, rendering the knee less sensitive to potentially damaging forces and possibly at risk for injury. Unable to rely on ligamentous structures, healthy female athletes appear to have adopted compensatory mechanisms of increased hamstring activity to achieve functional joint stabilization.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Basketball / injuries*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / epidemiology
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology*
  • Knee Joint* / innervation
  • Knee Joint* / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Postural Balance
  • Proprioception
  • Sex Factors
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Torque