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Fatigue and Gender Combination May Cause Some Knee Injuries

August 30, 2007 11:33 AM

By Jim Brown, Ph.D., Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal, Author, Tennis: Steps to Success

A new study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic sheds some light of why certain athletes may be more prone to ACL tears when they are fatigued. The study, published in the March 2007 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that female athletes have a tendency to land with a more flexed ankle, the foot rolling outward with an elevated arch, more knee abduction, and knee internal rotation compared to male athletes.

The study also showed that fatigue caused significant increases in these same biomechanical measures. The impact of fatigue on knee movements and loads was observed to be more pronounced in women, which might explain their greater risk of ACL injury during landing compared to men. According to the NCAA, female athletes are at least twice as likely to suffer an ACL injury as male athletes and in some cases up to eight times more likely. Research shows that one in 10 female athletes will experience an ACL injury at some point in their careers.

“Fatigue affects individuals differently. As we begin to pinpoint how fatigue relates to joint motion during sports movements, we hope to gain a better understanding of how ACL injuries occur and how to prevent them.” says Susan Joy, M.D., Director, Woman’s Sports Health at Cleveland Clinic and co-author of the study.
Athletes who took part in the study were observed drop-jumping in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Center’s Biomechanics lab. The athletes had their movement recorded using 3-D high-speed motion analysis techniques to examine lower-limb-joint kinematics and kinetics during 10 drop-jumps, both before and after fatigue.

Gary Calabrese, Director, Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Rehabilitation and the study’s co-author, said the findings open the door for further research and clinical application. “Understanding when and why athletes suffer debilitating knee injuries helps us develop more successful and personalized treatment and prevention programs for at-risk individuals.”

[adapted from a Cleveland Clinic press release]




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