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Introduction: Puberty substantially alters the body's mechanical properties, neuromuscular control, and sex differences therein, likely contributing to increased, sex-biased knee injury risk during adolescence. Female adolescents have higher risk for knee injuries than male adolescents of similar age engaging in similar physical activities, and much research has investigated sex differences in mechanical risk factors. However, few studies address the considerable variation in pubertal growth (timing, pace), knee mechanics, and injury susceptibility within sexes, or the impact of such growth variation on mechanical injury risk.

Objectives: The present study tested for effects of variation in pubertal growth on established mechanical knee injury risk factors, examining relationships between and within sexes.

Methods: Pubertal growth indices describing variation in the timing and rate of pubertal growth were developed using principal component analysis and auxological data from serial stature measurements. Linear mixed models were applied to evaluate relationships between these indices and knee mechanics during walking in a sample of adolescents.

Results: Later developing female adolescents with slower pubertal growth had higher extension moments throughout stance, whereas earlier developers had higher valgus knee angles and moments. In male adolescents, faster and later growth were related to higher extension moments throughout gait. In both sexes, faster growers had higher internal rotation moments at foot-strike.

Conclusions: Pubertal growth variation has important effects on mechanical knee injury risk in adolescence, affecting females and males differently. Earlier developing females exhibit greater injury risk via frontal plane factors, whereas later/faster developing males have elevated risk via sagittal plane mechanisms.


This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0