Stair climbing results in more challenging patellofemoral contact mechanics and kinematics than walking at early knee flexion under physiological-like quadriceps loading

J Biomech. 2009 Nov 13;42(15):2590-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.07.007. Epub 2009 Aug 4.


The mechanical environment during stair climbing has been associated with patellofemoral pain, but the contribution of loading to this condition is not clearly understood. It was hypothesized that the loading conditions during stair climbing induce higher patellofemoral pressures, a more lateral force distribution on the trochlea and a more lateral shift and tilt of the patella compared to walking at early knee flexion. Optical markers for kinematic measurements were attached to eight cadaveric knees, which were loaded with muscle forces at instances of walking and stair climbing cycles at 12 degrees and 30 degrees knee flexion. Contact mechanics were determined using a pressure sensitive film. At 12 degrees knee flexion, stair climbing loads resulted in higher peak pressure (p=0.012) than walking, more lateral force distribution (p=0.012) and more lateral tilt (p=0.012), whilst mean pressure (p=0.069) and contact area (p=0.123) were not significantly different. At 30 degrees knee flexion, although stair climbing compared to walking loads resulted in significantly higher patellofemoral mean (p=0.012) and peak pressures (p=0.012), contact area (p=0.025), as well as tilt (p=0.017), the medial-lateral force distribution (p=0.674) was not significantly different. No significant differences were observed in patellar shift between walking and stair climbing at either 12 degrees (p=0.093) or 30 degrees (p=0.575) knee flexion. Stair climbing thus leads to more challenging patellofemoral contact mechanics and kinematics than level walking at early knee flexion. The increase in patellofemoral pressure, lateral force distribution and lateral tilt during stair climbing provides a possible biomechanical explanation for the patellofemoral pain frequently experienced during this activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Femur / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Patella / physiology*
  • Pressure
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology