Knee muscular response strategies differ by developmental level but not gender during jump landing

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The purpose of this investigation was to determine differences between pre- and post-pubescent males and females in quadriceps (vastus medialis; VM) and hamstrings (medial hamstrings and biceps femoris; HAMS) muscular activation patterns via the root mean square of surface electromyography (SEMG) during self-initiated vertical jump landing. Fifty-eight subjects, divided into age and gender groupings, were compared on kinematic variables during pre-landing (100 msec preceeding initial ground contact), post-landing (100 msec following initial ground contact), and initial-contact-to-maximum-knee-flexion stages. Kinematic variables investigated were (1) SEMG values during each stage of the vertical-jump landing; (2) Co-contraction ratios (CCR), which represented the ratio of normalized hamstrings’ activity to normalized quadriceps’ activity; and, (3) knee angle at initial contact. Results indicated (1) no significant gender differences in variables measured; and, (2) significant developmental level differences. Post-pubescent subjects displayed greater HAMS acitivity and CCR values in the pre-landing stage relative to post-landing stages, indicating that post-pubescent subjects had a greater level of hamstrings co-contraction prior to landing than pre-pubescent subjects. Conversely, pre-pubescent subjects displayed greater post-landing and initial-contact-to-maximum-knee-flexion ratios, indicating a greater level of hamstrings’ co-contraction during post-landing stages than post-pubescent subjects. There were no significant differences in knee angle at initial contact. The greater level of hamstrings’ co-activation prior to landing by post-pubescent subjects indicated that they used a strategy of pre-tuning the hamstrings prior to landing (more CNS pre-activation) to control the ground reaction forces and anterior tibial displacement experienced by the knee during landing. On the other hand, pre-pubescent subjects controlled these forces by having a greater level of hamstrings’ co-activation during landing, which represents more of a reflexive activation in response to ground impact.

Original Citation

Croce, RV, Russell, PJ, Swartz, EE & Decoster, LC. (2004). Knee muscular response strategies differ by developmental level but not gender during jump landing. Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 44(6), 339-348.

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