Background: Lateral tibiofemoral articular geometry may play a role in the development of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. We hypothesized that athletes who had sustained an ACL injury would demonstrate more highly convex articular surfaces in the lateral compartment of the knee compared with activity-matched athletes who had not sustained an ACL injury, and that women would demonstrate greater absolute and relative convexity of these articular surfaces than men.
Methods: One hundred and twelve athletes with a non-contact ACL injury and sixty-one activity-matched athletes without an ACL injury were studied. Three blinded observers measured the articular geometry in the mid-lateral sagittal plane with use of magnetic resonance imaging. The tibial plateau radius of curvature (TPr), distal femoral radius of curvature (Fr), maximal femoral anteroposterior articular length (FAP), and maximal tibial anteroposterior articular length (TPAP) were recorded. The Fr:TPr and FAP:TPAP ratios were also calculated to adjust for size variations. The intraclass correlation coefficient and the two-sample Student t test were used to compare quantitative variables. All data were found to follow a normal distribution.
Results: When data for male and female patients were combined, the mean TPr, Fr, and TPAP values were significantly smaller in the ACL-injured patients than in the uninjured patients (33.9 compared with 37.5 mm, p = 0.005; 24.3 compared with 25.1 mm, p = 0.04; and 31.5 compared with 33.1 mm, p = 0.007; respectively). The mean FAP value did not differ significantly between the ACL-injured and uninjured patients but the difference in the mean FAP:TPAP value was significant (p = 0.003). When only male patients were analyzed, the mean TPr, Fr, and TPAP values were also significantly smaller in the ACL-injured patients than in the uninjured patients (35.5 compared with 41.1 mm, p = 0.002; 25.5 compared with 26.7 mm, p = 0.001; and 33.0 compared with 35.5 mm, p = 0.0002; respectively). The mean FAP value did not differ significantly between the ACL-injured and uninjured male patients, but the difference in the mean FAP:TPAP value was significant (p = 0.0005). In contrast, when only female patients were analyzed, none of the mean values differed significantly between the ACL-injured and uninjured patients. The FAP:TPAP and Fr:TPr values did not differ significantly among the ACL-injured male patients, injured female patients, and uninjured female patients.
Conclusions: All female patients (both ACL-injured and uninjured) and ACL-injured male patients shared a common lateral knee geometry characterized by a smaller tibial plateau length relative to the femur and by more convex articulating surfaces of the proximal aspect of the tibia and the distal aspect of the femur. Shorter, more highly convex articulating surfaces may be inherently less stable with regard to anterior tibial translation and rotation. These findings may partially explain the greater overall predisposition of women compared with men toward ACL injury as well as why some studies have demonstrated no sex differences in graft reinjury after ACL reconstruction.
Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
1Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Alaska Airlines Arena, Room 148, Box 354060, Seattle, WA 98195-4060. E-mail address for C.J. Wahl: firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail address for R.W. Westermann: email@example.com. E-mail address for G.Y. Blaisdell: firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail address for A.M. Cizik: email@example.com