Influence of patella alta on knee extensor mechanics

Ward SR, Terk MR, Powers CM.
J Biomech, 2005 38(12):2415-22.


The purpose of this study was to compare the knee extensor mechanics in persons with and without patella alta. Thirteen subjects with patella alta and 14 subjects with normal patellar position participated in the study. Sagittal and axial MR images of the knee were acquired at 0 degrees , 20 degrees , 40 degrees , and 60 degrees of knee flexion. Measurements of actual moment arm, patellar ligament/quadriceps tendon force ratio, quadriceps effective moment arm, and joint reaction force/quadriceps force ratio were obtained. There were no differences between groups in terms of actual moment arm. However, subjects with patella alta had significantly larger patellar ligament/quadriceps tendon force ratios (1.04±0.02 vs. 0.92±0.02) and quadriceps effective moment arms (4.40±0.09 vs. 4.00±0.09 cm) when averaged across the range of knee flexion angles tested. There was no difference in the joint reaction force/quadriceps force ratio between groups. The observed differences in knee extensor mechanics suggest that individuals with patella alta have a more efficient knee extensor mechanism and would be expected to generate similar joint reaction forces per unit quadriceps force compared to subjects with normal patellar position. Therefore, persons with patella alta may experience less patellofemoral joint reaction force to overcome the same knee flexion moment in the range of 0 degrees -60 degrees of knee flexion.

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