Differences in normal and perturbed walking kinematics between male and female athletes

Wendy J Hurd, Terese L Chmielewski, Michael J Axe, Irene Davis, Lynn Snyder-Mackler
Clinical Biomechanics 2004, 19 (5): 465-72

OBJECTIVE: To identify differences in lower extremity kinematic movement patterns between genders during walking through the application of an expected perturbation.

DESIGN: Randomized limb kinematics were compared between healthy active males and females.

BACKGROUND: Lower extremity kinematics during jump landing and cutting have been implicated as a potential source of the discrepancy in anterior cruciate ligament injury rates between genders. Kinematic differences between genders have been identified during tasks that are not provocative of anterior cruciate ligament injury but do result in increased ligament strain. Repetition of movement patterns that increase anterior cruciate ligament strain may increase the likelihood they will be reproduced during athletic tasks that produce force loads that exceed anterior cruciate ligament tensile strength.

METHODS: Twenty subjects (10 women, 10 men) classified as a level I or II athlete underwent motion analyses while performing self-paced walking trials. Five trials were undisturbed, and five each with a platform translating either laterally or anteriorly at heel contact. Sagittal, frontal, and transverse hip angles as well as sagittal and frontal knee angles were collected during stance.

RESULTS: Excursions in the frontal and transverse planes were greater at the hip and knee for females compared to males in each walking condition. The rate of these excursions also occurred more rapidly for females than males. There was no difference for joint angles at initial contact between genders, and there was no difference in the amount of sagittal plane excursion for the hip and knee when comparing genders.

CONCLUSIONS: Females demonstrate characteristics during both normal and perturbed gait that may potentially contribute to increased anterior cruciate ligament strain. Repetition of these potentially harmful movement patterns during provocative athletic maneuvers may lead to anterior cruciate ligament injury.

RELEVANCE: Females exhibit lower extremity kinematic patterns that differ from males. Female kinematic patterns may contribute to an increased risk for anterior cruciate ligament injury.

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