The Vertical Drop Jump Is a Poor Screening Test for ACL Injuries in Female Elite Soccer and Handball Players: A Prospective Cohort Study of 710 Athletes

Am J Sports Med. 2016 Apr;44(4):874-83. doi: 10.1177/0363546515625048. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


Background: The evidence linking knee kinematics and kinetics during a vertical drop jump (VDJ) to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury risk is restricted to a single small sample. Still, the VDJ test continues to be advocated for clinical screening purposes.

Purpose: To test whether 5 selected kinematic and kinetic variables were associated with future ACL injuries in a large cohort of Norwegian female elite soccer and handball players. Furthermore, we wanted to assess whether the VDJ test can be recommended as a screening test to identify players with increased risk.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.

Methods: Elite female soccer and handball players participated in preseason screening tests from 2007 through 2014. The tests included marker-based 3-dimensional motion analysis of a drop-jump landing. We followed a predefined statistical protocol in which we included the following candidate risk factors in 5 separate logistic regression analyses, with new ACL injury as the outcome: (1) knee valgus angle at initial contact, (2) peak knee abduction moment, (3) peak knee flexion angle, (4) peak vertical ground-reaction force, and (5) medial knee displacement.

Results: A total of 782 players were tested (age, 21 ± 4 years; height, 170 ± 7 cm; body mass, 67 ± 8 kg), of which 710 were included in the analyses. We registered 42 new noncontact ACL injuries, including 12 in previously ACL-injured players. Previous ACL injury (relative risk, 3.8; 95% CI, 2.1-7.1) and medial knee displacement (odds ratio, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.12-1.74 per 1-SD change) were associated with increased risk for injury. However, among the 643 players without previous injury, we found no association with medial knee displacement. A receiver operating characteristic curve analysis of medial knee displacement showed an area under the curve of 0.6, indicating a poor-to-failed combined sensitivity and specificity of the test, even when including previously injured players.

Conclusion: Of the 5 risk factors considered, medial knee displacement was the only factor associated with increased risk for ACL. However, receiver operating characteristic curve analysis indicated a poor combined sensitivity and specificity when medial knee displacement was used as a screening test for predicting ACL injury. For players with no previous injury, none of the VDJ variables were associated with increased injury risk.

Clinical relevance: VDJ tests cannot predict ACL injuries in female elite soccer and handball players.

Keywords: anterior cruciate ligament; biomechanics; female; football; handball; screening; soccer; vertical drop jump.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Young Adult