Background: Female patients sustain noncontact knee ligament injuries at a greater rate compared with their male counterparts. The cause of these differences in the injury rate and the movements that load the ligaments until failure are still under dispute in the literature. Purpose/Hypotheses: This study was designed to determine differences in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) strains between male and female cadaveric specimens during a simulated athletic task. The primary hypothesis tested was that female limbs would demonstrate significantly greater ACL strain compared with male limbs under similar loading conditions. A secondary hypothesis was that MCL strain would not differ between sexes. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Motion analysis of 67 athletes performing a drop vertical jump was conducted. Kinetic data were used to categorize injury risk according to tertiles, and these values were input into a cadaveric impact simulator to assess ligamentous strain during a simulated landing task. Uniaxial and multiaxial load cells and differential variable reluctance transducer strain sensors were utilized to collect mechanical data for analysis. Conditions of external loads applied to the cadaveric limbs (knee abduction moment, anterior tibial shear, and internal tibial rotation) were varied and randomized. Data were analyzed using 1-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), 2-way repeated-measures ANOVA, and the Fisher exact test. Results: There were no significant differences (P =.184) in maximum ACL strain between male (13.2% ± 8.1%) and female (16.7% ± 8.3%) specimens. Two-way ANOVA demonstrated that across all controlled external load conditions, female specimens consistently attained at least 3.5% increased maximum ACL strain compared with male specimens (F1,100 = 4.188, P =.043); however, when normalized to initial contact, no significant difference was found. There were no significant differences in MCL strain between sexes for similar parameters. Conclusion: When compared with baseline, female specimens exhibited greater values of ACL strain at maximum, initial contact, and after impact (33, 66, and 100 milliseconds, respectively) than male specimens during similar loading conditions, with a maximum strain difference of at least 3.5%. During these same loading conditions, there were no differences in MCL loading between sexes, and only a minimal increase of MCL loading occurred during the impact forces. Our results indicate that female patients are at an increased risk for ACL strain across all similar conditions compared with male patients. Clinical Relevance: These data demonstrate that female specimens, when loaded similarly to male specimens, experience additional strain on the ACL. As the mechanical environment was similar for both sexes with these simulations, the greater ACL strain of female specimens must be attributed to ligament biology, anatomic differences, or muscular stiffness.
- anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
- medial collateral ligament (MCL)
- sex differences
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine