Factors linked to cruciate injury in ski racers uncovered

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Low core strength and female gender are both associated with increased risk for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in adolescent competitive ski racers, show study results.

ACL rupture is one of the most frequent serious knee injuries in this group of athletes.

To try to predict which factors may influence an athlete's risk for ACL injury, Christian Raschner (University of Innsbruck, Austria) and colleagues analyzed data collected from 175 female and 195 male competitive alpine ski racers between the age of 14 and 19 years.

The participants underwent physical testing yearly between 1996 and 2006. These included jump coordination, leg press strength, core strength, strength endurance, and anerobic endurance testing, among others.

Between 1996 and 2006, 57 ACL injuries occurred in the skiers. Girls were a significant 2.3-fold more likely to sustain an ACL injury than boys.

When the researchers restricted the analysis to male skiers, they found that scores for relative leg force, ratio of absolute core flexion to extension force, relative core strength, and reactive strength index were predictive for ACL injury. More specifically, scores for all these factors except relative leg force were higher in noninjured versus injured athletes.

Among female skiers, the ratios of absolute flexion to extension force and absolute core strength were predictive for ACL injury, with scores for absolute core strength higher in noninjured versus injured athletes.

"This study contributes to the current knowledge of physical fitness as a modifiable ACL injury risk factor by identifying one main risk factor in young ski racers: core strength deficit," write Raschner and team in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"Coaches must understand the importance of core training and the strength and neuromuscular aspects of core training," they say.

"To further establish the cause-and-effect relationship between modifiable risk factors, gender-related aspects and injury in young alpine skiers, long term prospective studies need to be conducted."

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