Background: Female athletes have increased risk of anterior cruciate ligament rupture after the onset of puberty.
Hypotheses: Male athletes would demonstrate a longitudinal increase in vertical jump height compared with female athletes. There would be longitudinal gender differences in ground-reaction forces and loading rates.
Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: Sixteen female and 17 male adolescent athletes were evaluated for 2 consecutive years. Subjects were included if they were classified as pubertal during the first year of testing and postpubertal during the second year. As subjects performed a drop vertical jump, ground-reaction force, and vertical jump height were measured. Data analysis consisted of a mixed design analysis of variance with post hoc analysis (paired t tests).
Results: The male athletes demonstrated increased vertical jump height with maturation (P < .001); female athletes did not. Boys significantly reduced their landing ground-reaction force (P = .005), whereas girls did not. Takeoff force decreased in girls (P = .003) but not in boys. Both boys and girls had decreased loading rates with maturation (P < .001); however, girls had higher loading rates than did boys at both stages of maturation (P = .037).
Conclusion: Male athletes demonstrated a neuromuscular spurt as evidenced by increased vertical jump height and increased ability to attenuate landing force. The absence of similar adaptations in female athletes may be related to the increased risk of anterior cruciate ligament injury.