Background: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries often occur during landing, with female athletes at higher injury risk than male athletes. Interestingly, female dancers have lower ACL injury rates than do female athletes in general.
Hypothesis: Female dancers will have earlier and greater lower extremity muscle activity and higher sagittal knee joint and leg stiffness than will female basketball players.
Study design: Cross-sectional group comparison.
Methods: Fifty-five healthy female athletes (35 dancers, 20 basketball players) performed 5 double-leg drop jumps from a 45-cm box. Surface electromyography (onsets and amplitudes; prelanding and postlanding) was recorded from the lateral gastrocnemius, medial and lateral hamstrings, lateral quadriceps muscles with a 3-dimensional electromagnetic tracking system, and forceplates recording biomechanics (leg spring stiffness and knee joint stiffness).
Results: Compared with basketball players, dancers had greater leg spring stiffness (P = 0.047) but similar knee joint stiffness (P = 0.44). Although no significant differences were observed in overall muscle onset times (P = 0.22) or activation amplitudes (prelanding, P = 0.60; postlanding, P = 0.78), small to moderate effect sizes (ESs) suggest trends in dancers toward earlier (ES = 0.53) and higher medial hamstrings activation pre- (ES = 0.55) and post- (ES = 0.41) landing and lower lateral quadriceps (ES = 0.30) and higher gastrocnemius (ES = 0.33) postlanding muscle activation.
Conclusions: In dancers, the higher leg spring stiffness and trends toward higher hamstrings prelanding and postlanding, as well as lower quadriceps and higher gastrocnemius activation postlanding with similar knee joint stiffness, indicate lower extremity neuromechanical differences across other joints.
Clinical relevance: Female dancers may have lower extremity neuromechanics that are different from those of basketball players during drop jumps. If dancers use ACL-protective strategies during activity, then their training routines should be further investigated to improve ACL injury prevention programs.
Keywords: anterior cruciate ligament; injury; knee; landing.