Background: Studies have shown that women are at higher risk of sustaining noncontact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in specific sports. Recent gait studies of athletic tasks have documented that gender differences in knee movement, muscle activation, and external loading patterns exist. The objective of this study was to determine in a knee cadaver model if application of female-specific loading and movement patterns characterised in vivo for a stop-jump task cause higher ACL strains than male patterns.
Methods: Gender-specific loading patterns of the landing phase of the vertical stop-jump task were applied to seven cadaver knees using published kinetic/kinematic results for recreational athletes. Loads applied consecutively included: tibial compression, quadriceps, hamstrings, external posterior tibial shear, and tibial torque. Knee flexion was fixed based on the kinematic data. Strain of the ACL was monitored by means of a differential variable reluctance transducer installed on the anterior-medial bundle of the ACL.
Findings: The ACL strain was significantly increased (P<0.05) for the female loading pattern relative to the male loading pattern after the posterior tibial shear force was applied, and showed a similar trend (P=0.1) to be increased after the final tibial torque was applied.
Interpretation: This study suggests that female motor control strategies used during the stop-jump task may place higher strains on the ACL than male strategies, thus putting females at greater risk of ACL injury. We believe these results suggest the potential effectiveness of using training programs to modify motor control strategies and thus modify the risk of injury.