Correlation of anthropometric measurements, strength, anterior cruciate ligament size, and intercondylar notch characteristics to sex differences in anterior cruciate ligament tear rates

Am J Sports Med. 2001 Jan-Feb;29(1):58-66. doi: 10.1177/03635465010290011501.


We performed a prospective study based on the hypothesis that physiologic differences exist between men and women in strength after adjustments for body weight; that the size of the anterior cruciate ligament is proportionate to the strength of its antagonists, the quadriceps muscles; and that women have a relatively small anterior cruciate ligament, thus predisposing them to a disproportionate number of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. One hundred matched high school basketball players, 50 male and 50 female, were evaluated with anthropometric measurements, body fat analysis, muscle strength evaluation, and magnetic resonance imaging measurements of the intercondylar notch and cross-sectional area of the anterior cruciate ligament at the outlet. The male players were taller and heavier than their female counterparts, although they had 11% less body fat. Male players had statistically greater quadriceps and hamstring muscle strength than female players, even when adjustments were made for body weight. With adjustments for body weight, the size of the anterior cruciate ligament in girls was found to be statistically smaller than in boys. There was no statistically significant difference in the notch width index between the sexes. The study data support our hypothesis that sex differences in anterior cruciate ligament tear rates are caused primarily by several interrelated intrinsic factors. Most importantly, stiffness and muscular strength increase stress on the anterior cruciate ligament in female athletes. The anterior cruciate ligament, when adjustments have been made for body weight, is smaller in female athletes, and therefore, probably does not compensate for the lack of stiffness and strength.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / anatomy & histology
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / pathology
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Anthropometry
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / etiology
  • Knee Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress, Mechanical