BACKGROUND: Adolescent females are particularly susceptible to suffering anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, likely influenced by well-established maturational changes. This study investigated ACL biomechanical injury risk factors and their association with biological maturation in females. METHODS: Thirty-five adolescent females (15 ± 1 yr) completed a series of maximum-effort 90° unanticipated cutting manoeuvres. Established biomechanical ACL injury risk factors (including external knee abduction moments, knee abduction, hip abduction, knee flexion, ground reaction force) were derived from an optoelectronic motion analysis system and force platforms, with inter-limb asymmetries in these risk factors also computed. Biological maturation (percentage of predicted adult stature) was assessed using validated regression equations, incorporating anthropometric measures of participants and their biological parents. RESULTS: Significant bilateral asymmetries were observed with higher peak external knee abduction moments, higher ground reaction forces and less knee flexion (from 0-18% and 30-39% of contact) during the non-dominant vs. dominant cuts (effect sizes = 0.36, 0.63 and 0.50, respectively). Maturation did not appear to influence these asymmetries; however, less hip abduction was observed (e.g. 21-51% of contact for dominant cuts) in more biologically-mature females. CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight a potential maturation-related change in cutting technique that may explain the apparent heightened ACL injury risk in this population. As females mature, training targeted at neuromuscular control of hip abductor (e.g. gluteal) muscle groups could potentially mitigate ACL injury risk.
- ACL, asymmetry, change of direction, hip abduction, knee valgus