A modeling framework to estimate patellofemoral joint cartilage stress in vivo

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Nov;37(11):1924-30. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000176686.18683.64.


Purpose: Patellofemoral (PF) pain is common among athletes and may be caused by increased subchondral bone stress as a result of increased stress in the cartilage of the femur or patella. This article presents a modeling pipeline to estimate in vivo cartilage stress in the PF joint.

Methods: The modeling pipeline uses the finite element method to calculate stresses and strains in the PF joint cartilage. Model inputs include an accurate geometrical representation of the bones and cartilage from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cartilage material properties, and an estimate of muscle forces from an EMG-driven musculoskeletal model. Validation is performed using PF joint contact area and patellar orientation measured from upright, weight-bearing MRI. Preliminary data from an active, pain-free subject illustrate the modeling pipeline to calculate cartilage stress during a static squat.

Results: The quasistatic finite element simulation reproduced the orientation of the patella to within 2.1 mm and predicted the PF joint contact area to within 2.3%. Octahedral shear stresses were highest in the central, lateral aspect of the patella cartilage with a peak of 2.5 MPa. The corresponding stresses in the femoral cartilage reached only 2.0 MPa. However, peak hydrostatic pressures were higher within the femoral cartilage (3.5 MPa) than the patellar cartilage (2.3 MPa).

Conclusion: The methods presented in this article offer a novel approach to calculate PF joint cartilage stress in vivo. Future efforts will use this modeling pipeline to further our knowledge of PF pain and potential rehabilitation strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cartilage / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Shear Strength
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Weight-Bearing