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J Biomech. 2004 May;37(5):785-8.

Moment arm of the patellar tendon in the human knee.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA. jkrevolin@alum.wellesley.edu

Abstract

The moment arm of the knee-extensor mechanism is described by the moment arm of the patellar tendon calculated with respect to the screw axis of the tibia relative to the femur. The moment arm may be found once the line of action of the patellar tendon and the position and orientation of the screw axis are known. In this study, the orientation of the patellar tendon and the position and orientation of the finite screw axis of the tibia relative to the femur were calculated from measurements of the three-dimensional positions of the bones obtained from fresh cadaver specimens. Peak values of the patellar tendon moment arm ranged from 4-6 cm for the six knees tested; the moment arm was maximum near 45 degrees of knee flexion. The moment arm of the patellar tendon was nearly equal to the shortest (perpendicular) distance between the line of action of the patellar tendon and the axis of rotation of the knee at all flexion angles, except near full extension. Near full extension, the angle between the patellar tendon and the screw axis was significantly less than 90 degrees, and the magnitude of the moment arm was then less than the perpendicular distance between these two lines. The patellar tendon moment arm remained roughly constant across individuals when normalized by femoral condyle width, suggesting that anatomical differences play a large role in determining the moment arm of the extensor mechanism.

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