We assessed patellofemoral joint function by combining the measurement of maximal isometric extensor torque at the knee with clinical and radiological measurements in order to calculate the patellofemoral contact force. Eighteen volunteers established the normal ranges of results and the reliability of the system. Of the 39 patients with a variety of knee problems, 29 had anterior knee pain, and all had a subsequent arthroscopy. Patients with anterior knee pain and lesions in the patellar cartilage had significantly reduced isometric contact forces, but those with normal patellofemoral cartilage had normal contact forces. Our method may be useful in providing an objective assessment of anterior knee pain and a quantitative means of monitoring its treatment.