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To provide an overview of the continuum of muscular responses that typically occur with joint perturbation. The applications and limitations of surface electromyography (sEMG) in evaluating these responses are also addressed. Research applications assessing sex differences in these neuromuscular response characteristics are discussed along with suggestions for future research.
MEDLINE was searched from 1969 through 1998. Sport DISCUS was searched from 1975 through 1998. Terms searched included “anterior cruciate ligament,” “epidemiology,” “neuromuscular control,” “neuromuscular performance,” “electromyography,” “latency,” “reflex,” “electromechanical delay,” “dynamic stability,” “intrinsic stiffness,” “short-range stiffness,” “muscle,” “mechanoreceptors,” and “reaction time.”
It is widely accepted that efficient neuromuscular control is essential to dynamic joint stability and protection. Many studies have established the significant role of the muscles, and particularly the hamstrings, in providing knee stability. By observing the timing, phasing, and recruitment of reflexive muscular activation after a loading stress to the knee, we can better understand the coordinative mechanisms necessary to protect the joint and prevent ligament injury. A number of research models have employed the use of sEMG to evaluate neuromuscular responses at the knee after joint loading or perturbation. However, very few studies have specifically addressed potential sex differences in these response characteristics.
From the limited research available, it appears that a sex difference may exist in some aspects of neuromuscular responses. However, further research is needed to explore these differences at the knee and their potential role as predisposing factors to the higher incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injuries in females. Future studies should examine sex differences in neuromuscular response characteristics at the knee under functional, weight-bearing conditions while controlling for training and other confounding variables. The limitations of sEMG should be considered when interpreting neuromuscular response studies.