Effects of season long participation on ACL volume in female intercollegiate soccer athletes

J Exp Orthop. 2019 Mar 28;6(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s40634-019-0182-8.


Background: The aim of this study was to characterize the volumetric changes of the anterior cruciate ligament over the course of a competitive soccer season in female athletes.

Methods: Seventeen Division-I collegiate soccer players were recruited. Two data collection sessions were conducted. The first data collection occurred prior to the start of the soccer season. Each subject completed a brief questionnaire, had height and weight measured, underwent a clinical assessment of their anterior cruciate ligaments and an eight sequence magnetic resonance imagery of their knees. Contours of the anterior cruciate ligaments were outlined in sagittal T-2 weighted MR images and volumes were calculated using Medical Image Processing, Analysis, and Visualization software. Presence or absence of edema within the ligament was determined in pre and post season scans. All subjects were followed during the season to determine if a lower extremity injury had been sustained.

Results: Mean ligament volume significantly increased from preseason to postseason (p=.006). There was a 10% increase in the percentage of knees with edema pre to post season.

Conclusions: The physical demand of a competitive soccer season in female collegiate athletes appears to cause an increase in volume of the anterior cruciate ligament. The increase in volume may be related to the accumulation of microscopic tears over the course of the season which induce inflammation and edema. The volumetric changes in the ligament may have significant clinical implications, however further studies must be done to determine the relationship between anterior cruciate ligament volume and risk of injury.