Patellofemoral Kinematics in Healthy Older Adults During Gait Activities

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The patellofemoral (PF) joint is susceptible to many pathologies resulting from acute injury, chronic disease and complications following surgical treatment of the knee. The objectives of this study were to describe case series measurements of patellar motion in healthy older adults as they performed three gait activities, determine patellar tendon angle and moment arm, and show if these quantities were activity dependent. A stereo radiography system was utilized to obtain the 3D PF kinematics of seventeen healthy people over 55 years of age (8F/9M, 66 ± 7.9 years old, 75.7 ± 20.5 kg) as they performed level walking, a step down, and a pivot turn. For a similar portion of the gait cycle, patellar flexion (6.2° ± 5.8) and average range of motion (ROM) (11.0° ± 5.9°) for walking with a step down was greater compared to the other gait activities (gait ROM 6.9° ± 4.3°, pivot ROM 5.7° ± 3.3°), while the average range of motion for patella tilt was greater during walking with a pivot turn (8.6° ± 3.9°). However, each subject displayed distinct PF kinematic trends during all activities with a few notable exceptions. Importantly, the knee extensor mechanism characteristics of patellar tendon angle and moment arm showed considerable variation across subjects but were largely unaltered by changing activities. The variation between subjects and the different behavior of the patella during the step down and pivot emphasized the need for analysis of a range of activities to reveal individual response to pathology and treatment in patellar maltracking and osteoarthritis.