Women are more prone to knee injuries than men are, and the findings of a new study suggest this may involve more than just differences in muscular and skeletal structure.

The research shows that males and females also differ in the way they transmit the nerve impulses that control muscle force.

Scientists at Oregon State University found that men control nerve impulses similar to individuals trained for explosive muscle usage—like those of a sprinter—while the nerve impulses of women are more similar to those of an endurance-trained athlete, like a distance runner.

“There are some muscular and skeletal differences between men and women, but that doesn’t explain differences in injury rates as much as you might think,” said Sam Johnson, a clinical assistant professor in the Oregon State University School of Biological and Population Health Sciences. “No one has really studied the role of the nervous system the way we have in explaining these differences, specifically the way sensory information is processed and integrated with motor function in the spinal cord.”

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