Sex differences in lower extremity biomechanics during single leg landings

Randy J Schmitz, Anthony S Kulas, David H Perrin, Bryan L Riemann, Sandra J Shultz
Clinical Biomechanics 2007, 22 (6): 681-8

BACKGROUND: Females have an increased incident rate of anterior cruciate ligament tears compared to males. Biomechanical strategies to decelerate the body in the vertical direction have been implicated as a contributing cause. This study determined if females would exhibit single leg landing strategies characterized by decreased amounts of hip, knee, and ankle flexion resulting in greater vertical ground reaction forces and altered energy absorption patterns when compared to males.

METHODS: Recreationally active males (N=14) and females (N=14), completed five single leg landings from a 0.3m height onto a force platform while three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics were simultaneously collected.

FINDINGS: Compared to males, females exhibited (1) less total hip and knee flexion displacements (40% and 64% of males, respectively, P<0.05) and less time to peak hip and knee flexion (48% and 78% of males, respectively, P<0.05), (2) 9% greater peak vertical ground reaction forces (P<0.05), (3) less total lower body energy absorption (76% of males, P<0.05), and (4) 11% greater relative energy absorption at the ankle (P<0.05).

INTERPRETATION: Females in this study appear to adopt a single leg landing style using less hip and knee flexion, absorbing less total lower body energy with more relative energy at the ankle resulting in a landing style that can be described as stiff. This may potentially cause increased demands on non-contractile components of the lower extremity. Preventative training programs designed to prevent knee injury may benefit from the biomechanical description of sex-specific landing methods demonstrated by females in this study by focusing on the promotion of more reliance on using the contractile components to absorb impact energy during landings.

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