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Muscle Activation During ACL Injury Risk Movements in Young Female Athletes: A Narrative Review

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Young, adolescent female athletes are at particular high risk of sustaining a non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during sport. Through the last decades much attention has been directed toward various anatomical and biomechanical risk factors for non-contact ACL injury, and important information have been retrieved about the influence of external loading factors on ACL injury risk during given sports-specific movements. However, much less attention has been given to the aspect of neuromuscular control during such movements and only sparse knowledge exists on the specific muscle activation patterns involved during specific risk conditions. Therefore, the aim of this narrative review was (1) to describe anatomical aspects, strength aspects and biomechanical aspects relevant for the understanding of ACL non-contact injury mechanisms in young female athletes, and (2) to review the existing literature on lower limb muscle activation in relation to risk of non-contact ACL-injury and prevention of ACL injury in young female athletes. Studies investigating muscle activity patterns associated with sports-specific risk situations were identified, comprising cohort studies, intervention studies and prospective studies. Based on the retrieved studies, clear gender-specific differences in muscle activation and coordination were identified demonstrating elevated quadriceps activity and reduced hamstring activity in young female athletes compared to their male counterparts, and suggesting young female athletes to be at elevated risk of non-contact ACL injury. Only few studies (n = 6) examined the effect of preventive exercise-based intervention protocols on lower limb muscle activation during sports-specific movements. A general trend toward enhanced hamstring activation was observed during selected injury risk situations (e.g., sidecutting and drop landings). Only a single study examined the association between muscle activation deficits and ACL injury risk, reporting that low medial hamstring activation and high vastus lateralis activation prior to landing was associated with an elevated incidence of ACL-injury. A majority of studies were performed in adult female athletes. The striking paucity of studies in adolescent female athletes emphasizes the need for increased research activities to examine of lower limb muscle activity in relation to non-contact ACL injury in this high-risk athlete population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in physiology
Volume9
Issue number445
Pages (from-to)1-10
ISSN1664-042X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

ID: 54588017