Strength-Based Physiological profiles of NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball and Gymnastics Athletes: Implications for Injury Risk Assessment
The purpose of this study was to provide a comprehensive strength-based physiological profile of women’s collegiate basketball and gymnastic athletes; and to make sport-specific comparisons for various isokinetic and maximal and rapid isometric strength characteristics of the knee flexor and extensor muscles. A focus on antagonist muscle balance (hamstrings to quadriceps ratios, H:Q) will help elucidate particular vulnerabilities in these at-risk female athletes. Fourteen Division I collegiate level women’s basketball and 13 women’s gymnastics athletes performed isokinetic and isometric strength testing of the knee extensors and flexors. Outcome measures included absolute and body mass normalized (relative) isokinetic and isometric peak torque (PT) values, rate of torque development at 50, 100, 200 ms (RTD50, RTD100, RTD200) and H:Q ratios of all variables. The basketball athletes had greater absolute strength for all variables except for isokinetic PT at 240°s-1 and isometric RTD50 for the knee extensors. The gymnasts showed ~20% weaker relative concentric PT for the knee flexors at 60 and 120°·s-1, and decreased conventional H:Q ratios at 60 and 240°·s-1 (~15%) compared to the basketball team. These findings suggest that collegiate level gymnastics athletes may be prone to increased ACL injury risk due to deficient relative knee flexor strength and the associated H:Q strength imbalance. Optimizing strength training programs for collegiate gymnastics with increased focus on strength improvements for the hamstrings may be a potentially effective strategy to help decrease the ACL injury risk.