knee injuries women

Women's knee injuries

Female adolescent and young adult athletes are known to be at much greater risk of knee injury – particularly anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears – than males of similar training level. And now a new UK study has suggested that these differences are due to puberty-induced changes in knee mechanics.

The study was set up to investigate biomechanical differences in leg function between pre- and postpubescent female recreational athletes in a bid to determine whether maturation influences injury risk. More specifically, the researchers compared knee joint kinematics, ground reaction forces and other functional parameters during three drop jump-landing sequences in 16 young women (aged 18-25) and 16 girls (aged 8-11).

Previous biomechanical investigations had suggested that, by comparison with males, postpubescent females exhibit movement patterns that may predispose them to injury during landing. The researchers worked on the hypothesis that the women in their study would perform the landing tasks with less knee flexion, greater ground reaction forces and greater knee joint forces than their younger counterparts.

They were largely right in that the women exhibited reduced knee flexion at initial foot-ground contact and increased knee joint forces by comparison with the pre-pubescent girls.

‘This landing strategy may help explain the increased incidence of knee injury in female post-pubescent participants,’ conclude the researchers. ‘These findings suggest that developmental changes influence knee mechanics during landings in female athletes.’

Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005, vol 37, no 1, pp100- 107

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