Purpose: To determine how unanticipated performance of cutting maneuvers in sport affects the external loads applied to the knee joint and the potential risk for ligament injury.
Methods: A 50-Hz VICON motion analysis system was used to determine the lower limb kinematics of 11 healthy male subjects during running and cutting tasks performed under preplanned (PP) and unanticipated (UN) conditions. Subjects performed the UN tasks in response to a light stimulus on a target board. A kinematic model was then used in conjunction with force place data to calculate the three-dimensional loads at the knee joint.
Results: External flexion/extension moments at the knee joint were similar between PP and UN conditions; however, the varus/valgus and internal/external rotation moments during the UN cutting tasks were up to twice the magnitude of the moments measured during the PP condition.
Conclusion: Cutting maneuvers performed without adequate planning may increase the risk of noncontact knee ligament injury due to the increased external varus/valgus and internal/external rotation moments applied to the knee. These results are probably due to the small amount of time to make appropriate postural adjustments before performance of the task, such as the position of the foot on the ground relative to the body center of mass. Subsequently, training for the game situation should involve drills that familiarize players with making unanticipated changes of direction. Practice sessions should also incorporate plyometrics and should focus on better interpretation of visual cues to increase the time available to preplan a movement.