Perturbation-enhanced neuromuscular training alters muscle activity in female athletes

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2006 Jan;14(1):60-9. doi: 10.1007/s00167-005-0624-y. Epub 2005 Jun 4.


Female athletes involved in jumping and cutting sports injure their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) 4-6 times more frequently than their male counterparts in comparable sports. Neuromuscular factors, including quadriceps dominance, has been incriminated as contributing to the higher rates of injury in women. Currently, the most effective form of intervention developed to reduce female ACL injury rates has been neuromuscular training. The purpose of this study was to (1) identify gender based muscle activity patterns during disturbed walking that may contribute to ACL injury, and (2) determine if a novel training program could positively influence patterns among healthy female athletes utilizing a disturbed gait paradigm. Twenty healthy athletes (female=10, male=10) were tested. All subjects participated in five trials during which a platform translated horizontally in a lateral direction at heel contact before and after completing ten sessions of a perturbation training program. Electromyographic (EMG) data from the vastus lateralis, medial and lateral hamstrings, and medial gastrocnemius were collected. Trials were analyzed for the muscle onset, termination of activity, peak amplitude, time to peak amplitude, and integrated EMG activity. Muscle cocontraction, the simultaneous activation of antagonistic muscles (lateral hamstrings-vastus lateralis, and medial gastrocnemius-vastus lateralis), was calculated as indicators of active knee stiffness in preparation for heel strike, during weight acceptance and midstance. Prior to training, women had significantly higher peak quadriceps activity and higher integrated quadriceps activity during midstance than men. Both medial and lateral hamstring integrals during midstance increased from pre to posttraining. Onset times to peak activities for hamstrings and quadriceps were similar before training except for medial hamstring time to peak which occurred after heel strike in most women. Time to peak medial hamstring activity moved from after to just before heel strike after training. Women had higher medial gastrocnemius-vastus lateralis cocontraction indices in the preparatory and weight acceptance phases of gait than men after training. Prior to training, the athletic women in our sample demonstrated characteristic quadriceps dominance and decreased active knee stiffness when compared to male athletes. Modulation of activity and timing of ACL agonist musculature (hamstrings and gastrocnemius) from before to after training resulted in normal quadriceps-hamstring balance and increased active stiffness. These alterations in ACL agonist muscle activation patterns may reduce the risk of biomechanical strain injury among a high risk population.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / physiopathology
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology
  • Knee Injuries / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Sex Factors