The effect of bracing on patella alignment and patellofemoral joint contact area

Powers CM, Ward SR, Chan LD, Chen YJ, Terk MR.
Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2004 36(7):1226-32.


PURPOSE: To examine the influence of two patellofemoral braces on pain response, patellar alignment, and patellofemoral joint contact area in persons with patellofemoral pain.
METHODS: Fifteen women between the ages of 18 and 45 yr with a diagnosis of patellofemoral pain participated. After the assessment of pain response using a visual analog scale, subjects underwent axial plane magnetic resonance imaging of patellofemoral joint at 0 degrees, 20 degrees, 40 degrees, and 60 degrees of knee flexion. Imaging was done with the knee extensors contracted (25% body weight) under three conditions: 1) no brace, 2) On-Track brace, and 3) Patellar Tracking Orthosis (PTO). Measures of mediolateral patellar displacement and tilt and medial and lateral facet contact area were obtained from the magnetic resonance images.
RESULTS: On average, the On-Track brace reduced symptoms by 50%, whereas the PTO reduced pain by 44%. When averaged across all knee flexion angles, the PTO and the On-Track brace significantly increased total patellofemoral joint contact area by 52.0 mm (21%) and 59.3 mm (24%), respectively, when compared with the no-brace condition. Bracing had no influence on lateral patellar tilt; however, small but significant changes in lateral patellar displacement were observed.
CONCLUSION: Large changes in pain and contact area occurred without sizable changes in patellar alignment. The results of this study suggest that changes in patellar alignment by itself may not be responsible for pain alleviation after patellar bracing.

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