Background: Female athletes are more likely than male athletes to injure the anterior cruciate ligament. Causes of this increased injury incidence in female athletes remain unclear, despite numerous investigations.
Hypothesis: Female athletes will exhibit lower hamstring muscle activation and smaller knee flexion angles than male athletes during jump landings, especially when the knee muscles are fatigued.
Study design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: Eight female and six male varsity college basketball athletes with no history of knee ligament injury performed jump landings on the dominant leg from a maximum height jump and from 25.4 cm and 50.8 cm high platforms under nonfatigued and fatigued conditions. Knee joint angle and surface electromyographic signals from the quadriceps, hamstring, and gastrocnemius muscles were recorded.
Results: Women landed with greater knee flexion angles and greater knee flexion accelerations than men. Knee muscle activation patterns were generally similar in men and women.
Conclusion: As compared with male college basketball players, female college basketball players did not exhibit altered knee muscle coordination characteristics that would predispose them to anterior cruciate ligament injury when landing from jumps. This conclusion is made within the parameters of this study and based on the observation that hamstring muscle activation was similar for both groups. The greater knee flexion we observed in the female subjects would be expected to decrease their risk of injury.
Clinical relevance: Factors other than those evaluated in this study need to be considered when attempting to determine the reasons underlying the increased incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injuries consistently observed in elite female athletes.
Copyright 2003 American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine