Differences in lower limb kinematics between female athletes and non-athletes during bilateral landing tasks and single leg step-downs

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University of New Brunswick


Introduction: Specific movement patterns at the hip, knee and ankle during dynamic landing tasks have been associated with an increased risk of lower extremity injury. Training strategies have shown to be favourable in decreasing the risk of injury through addressing movement patterns that have been associated with increased injury risk. Objective: To determine differences in lower limb kinematics during three separate bilateral landing tasks (Drop Jump, Drop Landing, Slow Step Down) between female athletes and non-athletes. Methods: Lower extremity kinematic data were obtained using the Xsens MVN motion capture system for 12 university athletes, and 14 university non-athletes. Three-dimensional joint angles were determined for the hip, knee, and ankle at the instant of landing, and peak angles were determined throughout both landings. Peak angular velocities of the hip, knee and ankle joints, and minimum distance between the knees were found during landing. Jumping variables including jump height, ground contact time, flight time, reactive strength index, landing knee distance, minimum knee distance, and landing ankle distance were also analyzed. Results: The athletes, in general, landed with less plantarflexion at the ankle (p < 0.01), more flexion (p < 0.01), and more abduction (p < 0.01) at the knee and more adduction (p < 0.05) at the hip during double leg tasks. Athletes also showed a greater distance between the knees at landing (p < 0.01), and greater minimum distance between the knees (p < 0.01) throughout the landing phases. Athletes showed more favourable performance characteristics in all jumping variables (p < 0.05), aside from no differences in distance between the ankles at landing. During the single leg task, athletes showed more knee flexion (p < 0.05) and more knee abduction (p < 0.001) than the non-athletes and slower knee flexion (p < 0.05) and adduction (p < 0.01) velocities. Both athletes and non-athletes had more ankle dorsiflexion (p < 0.05) and hip flexion (p < 0.01) on the dominant side. Conclusions: Differences in lower extremity kinematics between the trained athletes and non-athletes during the landing tasks suggest that trained athletes may have a lower risk of lower extremity injury compared to untrained non-athletes in the sagittal plane.