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J Biomech. 2007;40(9):1968-74. Epub 2006 Dec 11.

The 3D patellar tendon moment arm: quantified in vivo during volitional activity.

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  • 1Physical Disabilities Branch, National Institutes of Health, Building 10 CRC RM 1-1469, 10 Center Drive MSC 1604, Bethesda, MD 20892-1604, USA. sheehan@cc.nih.gov


The patellar tendon moment arm is a critical quantity in that it defines the quadriceps ability to generate a moment on the tibia. Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to establish the first in vivo three-dimensional measures of the patellar tendon moment arm, measured non-invasively and in vivo during dynamic activity in a large normative population (n=34) using a dynamic MRI technique (fast-PC MRI). The magnitude of the moment arm was defined as the shortest distance between the finite helical axis and the patellar tendon line of action. Using these data, the hypothesis that the patellar tendon moment arm is independent of gender was tested. In general, the moment arm increased from 20 to 50 mm during knee extension. There were significant differences (P<0.05) in the moment arm between gender, but these differences were eliminated when the moment arm was scaled by the femoral epicondylar width. This study took a large step forward towards the ultimate goal of defining how pathology may alter joint dynamics through alteration in moment arms by establishing the first in vivo normative data base for the patellar tendon moment arm using non-invasive measures during volitional activity in a relatively large population (n=34). The fact that the scaled moment arm was independent of gender may lend insights into impairments that tend to be gender specific, such as patellar maltracking. The next steps will be to quantify the patellar tendon moment arm in populations with specific pathologies.

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