Knee ligament mechanical properties are not influenced by estrogen or its receptors

Stuart J. Warden, Leanne K. Saxon, Alesha B. Castillo, Charles H. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Women are at greater risk of tearing their knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than men participating in similar athletic activities. There is currently no conclusive explanation for this disparity; however, as ACL injuries in women have been linked with estrogen fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, one hypothesis is that estrogen has a direct detrimental effect on knee ligament mechanical properties. This study investigated the influence of estrogen and its receptors (ERα and ERβ) on knee ligament mechanical properties. This was achieved by testing the viscoelastic and tensile mechanical properties of knee medial collateral ligaments (MCL) and ACLs from: 1) male Sprague-Dawley rats treated with either estrogen (17α-ethynylestradiol; 0.03 mg/kg) or an ERα-specific agonist (propyl pyrazole triol; 2 mg/kg), and 2) female mice with a null mutation of the gene encoding for ERβ. Estrogen treatment had no significant effects on the viscoelastic or tensile mechanical properties of the rat MCL or ACL. Similarly, pharmacological stimulation of ERα using a selective agonist in rats and genetic modulation of ERβ by null mutation of its gene in mice did not influence MCL or ACL properties. These data indicate that estrogen does not have a major direct effect on ligament mechanical properties. Energies for the prevention of the disproportionately high rate of knee ligament injuries in women may be better spent focusing on more established and modifiable risk factors, such as abnormalities in neuromuscular control about the knee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1034-E1040
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Biomechanics
  • Medial collateral ligament
  • Neuromuscular control
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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