Objective: To determine the differences in load-bearing patellofemoral joint cartilage thickness between genders. To determine the differences in load-bearing cartilage thickness between pain-free controls and individuals with patellofemoral pain.
Methods: The articular cartilage thickness of the patella and anterior femur was estimated from magnetic resonance images in 16 young, pain-free control subjects (eight males, eight females) and 34 young individuals with patellofemoral pain (12 males, 22 females). The average age of all subjects was 28+/-4 years. The cartilage surfaces were divided into regions approximating the location of patellofemoral joint contact during knee flexion. The mean and peak cartilage thicknesses of each region were computed and compared using a repeated-measures Analysis of Variance.
Results: On average, males had 22% and 23% thicker cartilage than females in the patella (P < 0.01) and femur (P < 0.05), respectively. Male control subjects had 18% greater peak patellar cartilage thickness than males with patellofemoral pain (P < 0.05); however, we did not detect differences in patellar cartilage thickness between female control subjects and females with patellofemoral pain (P = 0.45). We detected no significant differences in femoral cartilage thickness between the control and pain groups.
Conclusions: Thin cartilage at the patella may be one mechanism of patellofemoral pain in male subjects, but is unlikely to be a dominant factor in the development of pain in the female population.