Objective: Female athletes who are at increased risk for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury demonstrate biomechanical differences between limbs during athletic tasks that may persist following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR). This may limit an athlete's potential for safe return to sports competition. The purpose of this study was to determine if female athletes demonstrate lower limb asymmetries in landing and takeoff force following ACLR and clearance for return to competitive sports participation. We hypothesized that females following ACLR would demonstrate side-to-side differences in landing and jumping kinetics after their return to sport (2+ years) that would not be observed in a group of healthy female controls.
Design: Case control study.
Setting: The Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Patients: Fourteen female athletes at a mean of 27 months following ACLR and 18 healthy female athletes participated in the study.
Assessment: All subjects executed a drop vertical jump (DVJ) task onto 2 force plates. Vertical ground reaction force (VGRF) was measured during landing and takeoff and was used to calculate landing phase loading rates. A 2-way analysis of variance was used to determine differences between the involved, uninvolved, and control limbs.
Results: Females who had undergone ACLR demonstrated increased VGRF (P = 0.001) and loading rate (P < 0.001) on the uninvolved limb during landing when compared with the involved limb and the control group. During takeoff, the involved limb showed significantly less ability to generate force (P = 0.03) than the uninvolved limb and the control limbs.
Conclusions: Female athletes who have undergone ACLR and returned to sport may continue to demonstrate biomechanical limb asymmetries 2 years or more after reconstruction that can be identified during landing.