Differences in Movement and Loading Variability Between ACLR and Healthy Athletes During Bilateral and Unilateral Landings

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Virginia Tech


The continual increase in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in sports makes it the most common ligament injury and leads the athlete down a difficult road with reconstruction surgery (ACLR) and months of rehabilitation. Specifically, females are at a greater risk of both primary and secondary ACL injuries compared to males. The purpose of this research was to understand the differences in movement and loading variability between ACLR and healthy athletes during unilateral and bilateral landings while utilizing limb symmetry to understand between group differences. It was hypothesized that females with an ACLR would have greater variability compared to males with an ACLR and healthy female athletes. 40 ACLR and 67 healthy athletes were asked to complete seven stop jumps and 25 ACLR and 30 healthy athletes completed seven single hop trials to assess intra-subject variability. The stop jump task utilized embedded force plates and motion capture technology while the single hop task used loadsol® in-shoe force sensors. The measures studied with the stop jump included posterior and vertical ground reaction force (GRF), knee/hip abduction/adduction angles, and loading rate. The single hop measures included peak force, loading rate, and impulse. To assess variability and limb symmetry, coefficient of variation (CV) and the limb symmetry index (LSI) were calculated for each of outcome measure. A linear mixed effects model was completed in JMP (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) with p<0.05 to see the effects of group, sex, and limb. During the stop jump task, the ACLR athletes showed higher variability for both posterior GRF (p<0.001), posterior GRF LSI (p<0.001), and loading rate (p=0.027) compared to controls. Females with an ACLR had higher variability in vertical GRF (p<0.001) and vertical GRF symmetry (p=0.029) compared to HC females. Additionally, females with an ACLR had higher variability in the vertical GRF (p=0.033) when compared to males with an ACLR. Knee abduction angle (p=0.024) showed males with an ACLR to have higher variability compared to females with an ACLR. For the single hop task, there was a significant difference between sex for loading rate (p<0.001), loading rate LSI (p=0.004), impulse (p=0.006), and impulse LSI (p=0.001) with males producing a higher mean CV compared to females in all measures regardless of group. Overall, these results support the hypothesis that group and sex differences exist and that females with an ACLR will have higher variability and asymmetrical movements than male ACLR patients and healthy females during bilateral landings, which could lead to increased injury risk. In unilateral landings, the results suggest that females are landing with less variability compared to males. With increased variability on the surgical limb of an athlete with an ACLR, it is likely that the athlete will have a more successful return to sport as they can react and adapt to changes in landing during sports. Future work should report reinjury rates to investigate the potential role of movement variability in injury risk and potentially determine variability thresholds for injury risk. The evaluation of bilateral and unilateral landings revealed the need to include both landing tasks in return to sport testing as well as a limb symmetry metric to understand an athlete's functional readiness to react to changing conditions during sports related movement.



Movement, Loading, Variability, ACLR, Limb Symmetry, Unilateral, Bilateral