The aim of the present study was to investigate if the presence of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury risk factors depicted in the laboratory would reflect at-risk patterns in football-specific field data. Twenty-four female footballers (14.9 ± 0.9 year) performed unanticipated cutting maneuvers in a laboratory setting and on the football pitch during football-specific exercises (F-EX) and games (F-GAME). Knee joint moments were collected in the laboratory and grouped using hierarchical agglomerative clustering. The clusters were used to investigate the kinematics collected on field through wearable sensors. Three clusters emerged: Cluster 1 presented the lowest knee moments; Cluster 2 presented high knee extension but low knee abduction and rotation moments; Cluster 3 presented the highest knee abduction, extension, and external rotation moments. In F-EX, greater knee abduction angles were found in Cluster 2 and 3 compared to Cluster 1 ( p = 0.007). Cluster 2 showed the lowest knee and hip flexion angles ( p < 0.013). Cluster 3 showed the greatest hip external rotation angles ( p = 0.006). In F-GAME, Cluster 3 presented the greatest knee external rotation and lowest knee flexion angles ( p = 0.003). Clinically relevant differences towards ACL injury identified in the laboratory reflected at-risk patterns only in part when cutting on the field: in the field, low-risk players exhibited similar kinematic patterns as the high-risk players. Therefore, in-lab injury risk screening may lack ecological validity.
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