Background: One of the rationales behind using strength training in the treatment of adolescents with Patellofemoral Pain (PFP) is that reduced strength of the lower extremity is a risk factor for PFP and a common deficit. This rationale is based on research conducted on adolescents >15 years of age but has never been investigated among young adolescents with PFP.
Objectives: To compare isometric muscle strength of the lower extremity among adolescents with PFP compared to age- and gender-matched pain-free adolescents.
Methods: In 2011 a population-based cohort (APA2011-cohort) consisting of 768 adolescents aged 12-15 years from 8 local schools was formed. In September 2012, all adolescents who reported knee pain in September 2011 were offered a clinical examination if they still had knee pain. From these, 20 adolescents (16 females) were diagnosed with PFP. Pain-free adolescents from the APA2011-cohort (n = 20) were recruited on random basis as age- and gender-matched pairs. Primary outcome was isometric knee extension strength normalized to body weight (%BW) and blinded towards subject information. Secondary outcomes included knee flexion, hip abduction/adduction and hip internal/external rotation strength. Demographic data included Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) and symptom duration.
Results: Adolescents with PFP reported long symptom duration and significantly worse KOOS scores compared to pain-free adolescents. There were no significant differences in isometric knee extension strength (Δ0.3% BW, p = 0.97), isometric knee flexion strength (Δ0.4% BW, p = 0.84) or different measures of hip strength (Δ0.4 to 1.1% BW, p>0.35).
Conclusion: Young symptomatic adolescents with PFP between 12 and 16 years of age did not have decreased isometric muscle strength of the knee and hip. These results question the rationale of targeting strength deficits in the treatment of adolescents with PFP. However, strength training may still be an effective treatment for those individuals with PFP suffering from strength deficits.