Lower body symmetry and running performance in elite Jamaican track and field athletes

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 17;9(11):e113106. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113106. eCollection 2014.


In a study of degree of lower body symmetry in 73 elite Jamaican track and field athletes we show that both their knees and ankles (but not their feet) are-on average-significantly more symmetrical than those of 116 similarly aged controls from the rural Jamaican countryside. Within the elite athletes, events ranged from the 100 to the 800 m, and knee and ankle asymmetry was lower for those running the 100 m dashes than those running the longer events with turns. Nevertheless, across all events those with more symmetrical knees and ankles (but not feet) had better results compared to international standards. Regression models considering lower body symmetry combined with gender, age and weight explain 27 to 28% of the variation in performance among athletes, with symmetry related to about 5% of this variation. Within 100 m sprinters, the results suggest that those with more symmetrical knees and ankles ran faster. Altogether, our work confirms earlier findings that knee and probably ankle symmetry are positively associated with sprinting performance, while extending these findings to elite athletes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Ankle / anatomy & histology*
  • Ankle / physiology
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Jamaica
  • Knee / anatomy & histology*
  • Knee / physiology
  • Male
  • Running*
  • Track and Field*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.S3630

Grant support

The authors thank the Enhanced Education Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the Biosocial Research Foundation, the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies (CHES), and the German Science Foundation (DFG) for financial support. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.