Elevated gastrocnemius forces compensate for decreased hamstrings forces during the weight-acceptance phase of single-leg jump landing: implications for anterior cruciate ligament injury risk

J Biomech. 2014 Oct 17;47(13):3295-302. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2014.08.016. Epub 2014 Sep 1.


Approximately 320,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in the United States each year are non-contact injuries, with many occurring during a single-leg jump landing. To reduce ACL injury risk, one option is to improve muscle strength and/or the activation of muscles crossing the knee under elevated external loading. This study's purpose was to characterize the relative force production of the muscles supporting the knee during the weight-acceptance (WA) phase of single-leg jump landing and investigate the gastrocnemii forces compared to the hamstrings forces. Amateur male Western Australian Rules Football players completed a single-leg jump landing protocol and six participants were randomly chosen for further modeling and simulation. A three-dimensional, 14-segment, 37 degree-of-freedom, 92 muscle-tendon actuated model was created for each participant in OpenSim. Computed muscle control was used to generate 12 muscle-driven simulations, 2 trials per participant, of the WA phase of single-leg jump landing. A one-way ANOVA and Tukey post-hoc analysis showed both the quadriceps and gastrocnemii muscle force estimates were significantly greater than the hamstrings (p<0.001). Elevated gastrocnemii forces corresponded with increased joint compression and lower ACL forces. The elevated quadriceps and gastrocnemii forces during landing may represent a generalized muscle strategy to increase knee joint stiffness, protecting the knee and ACL from external knee loading and injury risk. These results contribute to our understanding of how muscle's function during single-leg jump landing and should serve as the foundation for novel muscle-targeted training intervention programs aimed to reduce ACL injuries in sport.

Keywords: Computed muscle control; Computer simulation; Injury prevention; Knee loading; Musculoskeletal modeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology
  • Risk
  • Soccer
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing*
  • Young Adult