Gender Differences in Neuromuscular Performance

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Gender Differences in Neuromuscular Performance

by Brendan Gabriel

The gender differences in Neuromuscular Performance are often overshadowed by more obvious gender differences. However, there have been studies showing a difference. Eisenmann and Malina, (2003) looked at 20 male and 16 female young distance runners. The athletes were studied over a period of 5 years. Neuromuscular capacity was seen to be significantly higher in boys than girls throughout the study. However after the age of 13 there was a significant increase in the gap between boys and girls in neuromuscular endurance and agility, due to a “spurt” in the boys’ results and a plateau in the girls’ results.

Gender Differences in Neuromuscular PerformanceMalina et al., (2005) looked at Olympic style divers and found-similar to the previous study- that after adolescence the male athletes’ growth spurt induced significant differences in several motor tasks, however this study found that due to increase muscle mass the males divers performed worse in some tests compared to the female athletes, although there was a significant increase in other tasks for the males. The difference in the 2 studies could be down to the differences in upper body muscle development between distance runners and divers, as upper-body muscle development and strength was significantly lower in runners than in the general population (Eisenmann and Malina, 2003).

In a more recent study Quatman et al. (2006) also found a neuromuscular “spurt” in performance in male athletes compared to females in the lower body.

This study aimed to look at the lower body as female athletes are known to have and increased incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injury after the onset of puberty. (Quatman et al., 2006)(Rozzi et al., 1999), by up to 5 times the rate of males. (Ford et al., 2003)

Rozzi et al., (1999) looked at male and female soccer and basketball players(average age 19.5), and found that females demonstrate a significantly longer time to detect the knee joint moving into extension, but also that females possess significantly superior single-legged balance ability, and produce significantly greater electromyographic amplitude and area, of the lateral hamstring muscle after landing a jump. The study concluded that the laxity and reaction time of female knee joints was the contributing factor to increased injury risk, and that females had developed increased hamstring neural activity to provide some compensation for the negative factors.

Chappell et al.(2002) also found these significant differences in Neuromuscular Performance (in male and female athletes), and further concluded that the increase in hamstring neural activation and also less tibia anterior shear force of females, actually put the knee joint in positions that increased risk of injury rather than compensate for it.

Komi et al., (1973) concluded that the lower knee joint reaction time seen in previous studies could be more influenced by environment than in males, and Paterno et al. (2004) followed this by showing that neuromuscular training increases joint stability in young female athletes.

Therefore in summary, male athletes have an increase in Neuromuscular Performance after the adolescent growth spurt, however increases in muscle mass and other factors may mean that in some areas motor performance may actually decreases compared to females. Also, female Neuromuscular Performance is decreased in the knee joint with respect to preventing injury, however there is good evidence suggesting females are more receptive to training in this area, and this may lead to a decreased risk of ligament injury.


Chappell J D, Yu B, Kirkendall D T, and Garrett W E, (2002) A Comparison of Knee Kinetics between Male and Female Recreational Athletes in Stop-Jump Tasks Am J Sports Med vol. 30 no. 2 261-267

Eisenmann J C and Malina R M (2003) Age- And Sex-Associated Variation In Neuromuscular Capacities Of Adolescent Distance Runners, Journal of Sports Sciences, 21, 551–557

Ford K R, Myer G D and Hewett T E (2003) Valgus Knee Motion during Landing in High School Female and Male Basketball Players, Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 10, pp. 1745-1750, 2003.

Komi P V , Klissouras V and Karvinen E (1973)Genetic Variation in Neuromuscular Performance, Physiol. 31, 289-304

Malina R M, Geithner C A, O’Brien R, Tan S K (2005)Sex differences in the motor performances of elite young divers, Ital J Sport Sci: 12: 18-23

Paterno M V, Myer G D, Ford K R, Hewett T E, (2004)Neuromuscular Training Improves Single-Limb Stability in Young Female, Athletes J Orthop Sports Phys Ther;34:305-316.

Quatman CE , Ford K R, Myer G D and Hewett T E (2006), Maturation Leads to Gender Differences in Landing Force and Vertical Jump Performance: A Longitudinal Study, Am J Sports Med vol. 34 no. 5 806-813

Rozzi S L, Lephart S M, Gear W S, and Fu F H, (1999) Knee Joint Laxity and Neuromuscular Characteristics of Male and Female Soccer and Basketball Players, Am J Sports Med vol. 27 no. 3 312-319