Objective: To elucidate the effects of muscular fatigue on knee joint laxity and the neuromuscular characteristics of male and female athletes. We were particularly interested in determining whether such effects would be more pronounced in female athletes than in males participating in the same sport.
Design and setting: Subjects were assessed on 4 dependent variables during a rested and an isokinetically induced muscular fatigue state. We ensured that posttesting measurements were obtained in the fatigued state by testing only 2 dependent variables after each exercise bout.
Subjects: We recruited male (n = 17) and female (n = 17) subjects from a population of healthy collegiate basketball and soccer players.
Measurements: MEASURED DEPENDENT VARIABLES WERE AS FOLLOWS: anterior tibial translation, kinesthesia determined by assessing the threshold to detection of passive motion moving into knee flexion and extension; lower extremity balance ability quantified through a stability index value; and the electromyography-measured muscle activity of 6 knee-stabilizing muscles.
Results: In response to muscular fatigue, subjects demonstrated an overall decrease in the ability to detect joint motion moving into the direction of extension, an increase in the onset of contraction time for the medial hamstring and lateral gastrocnemius muscles, and an increase in the first contraction area of the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis muscles. Additionally, the increase in area of the vastus lateralis was greater for the males compared with the females.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that both male and female athletes exhibit decrements in proprioceptive ability and alterations in muscular activity subsequent to muscular fatigue.