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Patellofemoral pain (PFP) is a prevalent knee condition with many proposed biomechanically orientated etiological factors and treatments.
We aimed to systematically review and synthesize the evidence for biomechanical variables (spatiotemporal, kinematic, kinetic) during walking and running in people with PFP compared with pain-free controls, and determine if biomechanical variables contribute to the development of PFP.
Systematic review and meta-analysis.
We searched Medline, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, Embase, and Web of Science from inception to October 2021.
Eligibility criteria for selecting studies
All study designs (prospective, case–control [± interventional component, provided pre-intervention data were reported for both groups], cross-sectional) comparing spatiotemporal, kinematic, and/or kinetic variables during walking and/or running between people with and without PFP.
We identified 55 studies involving 1300 people with PFP and 1393 pain-free controls. Overall pooled analysis identified that people with PFP had slower gait velocity [moderate evidence, standardized mean difference (SMD) − 0.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) − 0.72, − 0.27], lower cadence (limited evidence, SMD − 0.43, 95% CI − 0.74, − 0.12), and shorter stride length (limited evidence, SMD − 0.46, 95% CI − 0.80, − 0.12). People with PFP also had greater peak contralateral pelvic drop (moderate evidence, SMD − 0.46, 95% CI − 0.90, − 0.03), smaller peak knee flexion angles (moderate evidence, SMD − 0.30, 95% CI − 0.52, − 0.08), and smaller peak knee extension moments (limited evidence, SMD − 0.41, 95% CI − 0.75, − 0.07) compared with controls. Females with PFP had greater peak hip flexion (moderate evidence, SMD 0.83, 95% CI 0.30, 1.36) and rearfoot eversion (limited evidence, SMD 0.59, 95% CI 0.03, 1.14) angles compared to pain-free females. No significant between-group differences were identified for all other biomechanical variables. Data pooling was not possible for prospective studies.
A limited number of biomechanical differences exist when comparing people with and without PFP, mostly characterized by small-to-moderate effect sizes. People with PFP ambulate slower, with lower cadence and a shortened stride length, greater contralateral pelvic drop, and lower knee flexion angles and knee extension moments. It is unclear whether these features are present prior to PFP onset or occur as pain-compensatory movement strategies given the lack of prospective data.