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Am J Sports Med. 2012 Jan;40(1):32-40. doi: 10.1177/0363546511422325. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Morphologic characteristics help explain the gender difference in peak anterior cruciate ligament strain during a simulated pivot landing.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.



Gender differences exist in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) cross-sectional area and lateral tibial slope. Biomechanical principles suggest that the direction of these gender differences should induce larger peak ACL strains in females under dynamic loading.


Peak ACL relative strain during a simulated pivot landing is significantly greater in female ACLs than male ACLs.


Controlled laboratory study.


Twenty cadaveric knees from height- and weight-matched male and female cadavers were subjected to impulsive 3-dimensional test loads of 2 times body weight in compression, flexion, and internal tibial torque starting at 15° of flexion. Load cells measured the 3-dimensional forces and moments applied to the knee, and forces in the pretensioned quadriceps, hamstring, and gastrocnemius muscle equivalents. A novel, gender-specific, nonlinear spring simulated short-range and longer range quadriceps muscle tensile stiffness. Peak relative strain in the anteromedial bundle of the ACL (AM-ACL) was measured using a differential variable reluctance transducer, while ACL cross-sectional area and lateral tibial slope were measured using magnetic resonance imaging. A repeated-measures Mann-Whitney signed-rank test was used to test the hypothesis.


Female knees exhibited 95% greater peak AM-ACL relative strain than male knees (6.37% [2.53%] vs 3.26% [1.89%]; P = .004). Anterior cruciate ligament cross-sectional area and lateral tibial slope were significant predictors of peak AM-ACL relative strain (R(2) = .59; P = .001).


Peak AM-ACL relative strain was significantly greater in female than male knees from donors of the same height and weight. This gender difference is attributed to a smaller female ACL cross-sectional area and a greater lateral tibial slope.


Since female ACLs are systematically exposed to greater strain than their male counterparts, training and injury prevention programs should take this fact into consideration.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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