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Gender, Ethnicity and Susceptibility to Leg Injuries: Are Women More Prone to Leg Injuries than Men? Does Racial Difference Exist?

Seok Gi Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering, is collaborating with the Department of Physical Education at Yonsei University in South Korea to investigate postural characteristics in females and males, and in different races, and their relationship to susceptibility to leg injuries.

A previous study reported that women are two to eight times more likely to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries than are men. However, analysis of 2002-2013 data from South Korea’s National Health Insurance Sharing Service (NHISS) found that women actually suffered ACL injuries only around 1.06 times as often as men did. This finding differs greatly from the research team’s original study.

One of the most important factors in increased susceptibility in women is gender differences in static and dynamic postural measures. Dynamic posture is the position the body is in at any moment during a movement pattern. Static posture, on the other hand, is the position the body is in when it is not moving. These postural differences between men and women are reported to be a risk factor for many types of acute and chronic lower extremity injuries. But the research team hypothesizes that posture differences may not be as strong in Asian populations as they are in non-Asian populations.

“The gender differences that were observed may not reflect the Korean population,” Lee explains. “There may be other factors that prevent ACL injuries among the female population. Since the ethnic characteristics of subjects [in the original study] were not individually identified – and the majority of these studies were not Asian – those gender differences may not be a characteristic of Asians.”

Under this assumption, Lee and his team of researchers are now examining the dynamic and static postures of Korean males and females. They hope to associate certain characteristics of the postures with the likelihood of ACL injuries caused by valgus collapse – an internal rotation at the hip most commonly seen during hip flexion – upon landing from a jump. They will also compare these dynamic and static characteristics to other ethnic data.

They will analyze the data using several optimization techniques, attempting to increase the accuracy of the characterization of the postures. Logical Analysis of Data (LAD) is one technique they will use; it has powerful mathematical analytics regarding the handling of health care and medical data. LAD is known to identify risk factors that predict the binary outcome (injury or no injury) very effectively. “We expect that the optimization techniques and framework will provide us with the more accurate identification of the alignment characteristics of male and female, compared to the conventional statistical method used,” Lee explains.

The yearlong research project is officially titled, “Investigation of the Lower Extremity Static Postures Predicting Valgus Collapse During Landing in Korean Male and Female: Optimization Approach.”