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J Biomech. 2017 Feb 28;53:171-177. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.01.017. Epub 2017 Jan 19.

Acute changes in knee cartilage transverse relaxation time after running and bicycling.

Author information

School of Rehabilitation Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
School of Biomedical Engineering, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; Electrical and Computer Engineering, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
Qmetrics Technologies, Rochester, NY, USA.
Qmetrics Technologies, Rochester, NY, USA; Escuela de Medicina, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Monterrey, NL, México.
School of Rehabilitation Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada. Electronic address:



To compare the acute effect of running and bicycling of an equivalent cumulative load on knee cartilage composition and morphometry in healthy young men. A secondary analysis investigated the relationship between activity history and the change in cartilage composition after activity.


In fifteen men (25.8±4.2 years), the vertical ground reaction force was measured to determine the cumulative load exposure of a 15-min run. The vertical pedal reaction force was recorded during bicycling to define the bicycling duration of an equivalent cumulative load. On separate visits that were spaced on average 17 days apart, participants completed these running and bicycling bouts. Mean cartilage transverse relaxation times (T2) were determined for cartilage on the tibia and weight-bearing femur before and after each exercise. T2 was measured using a multi-echo spin-echo sequence and 3T MRI. Cartilage of the weight bearing femur and tibia was segmented using a highly-automated segmentation algorithm. Activity history was captured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire.


The response of T2 to bicycling and running was different (p=0.019; mean T2: pre-running=34.27ms, pre-bicycling=32.93ms, post-running=31.82ms, post-bicycling=32.36ms). While bicycling produced no change (-1.7%, p=0.300), running shortened T2 (-7.1%, p<0.001). Greater activity history predicted smaller changes in tibial, but not femoral, T2.


Changes in knee cartilage vary based on activity type, independent of total load exposure, in healthy young men. Smaller changes in T2 were observed after bicycling relative to running. Activity history was inversely related to tibial T2, suggesting cartilage conditioning.


Aerobic exercise; Bicycling; Cartilage; Magnetic resonance imaging; Reliability; Running; T(2)

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