Cam FAI and Smaller Neck Angles Increase Subchondral Bone Stresses During Squatting: A Finite Element Analysis

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2019 May;477(5):1053-1063. doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000000528.


Background: Individuals with a cam deformity and a decreased (varus) femoral neck-shaft angle may be predisposed to symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). However, it is unclear what combined effects the cam deformity and neck angle have on acetabular cartilage and subchondral bone stresses during an impinging squat motion. We therefore used finite element analysis to examine the combined effects of cam morphology and femoral neck-shaft angle on acetabular cartilage and subchondral bone stresses during squatting, examining the differences in stress characteristics between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with cam deformities and individuals without cam deformities and no hip pain.

Questions/purposes: Using finite element analysis in this population, we asked: (1) What are the differences in acetabular cartilage stresses? (2) What are the differences in subchondral bone stresses? (3) What are the effects of high and low femoral neck-shaft angles on these stresses?

Methods: Six male participants were included to represent three groups (symptomatic cam, asymptomatic cam, control without cam deformity) with two participants per group, one with the highest femoral neck-shaft angle and one with the lowest (that is, most valgus and most varus neck angles, respectively). Each participant's finite element hip models were reconstructed from imaging data and assigned subject-specific bone material properties. Hip contact forces during squatting were determined and applied to the finite element models to examine maximum shear stresses in the acetabular cartilage and subchondral bone.

Results: Both groups with cam deformities experienced higher subchondral bone stresses than cartilage stresses. Both groups with cam deformities also had higher subchondral bone stresses (symptomatic with high and low femoral neck-shaft angle = 14.1 and 15.8 MPa, respectively; asymptomatic with high and low femoral neck-shaft angle = 10.9 and 13.0 MPa, respectively) compared with the control subjects (high and low femoral neck-shaft angle = 6.4 and 6.5 MPa, respectively). The symptomatic and asymptomatic participants with low femoral neck-shaft angles had the highest cartilage and subchondral bone stresses in their respective subgroups. The asymptomatic participant with low femoral neck-shaft angle (123°) demonstrated anterolateral subchondral bone stresses (13.0 MPa), similar to the symptomatic group. The control group also showed no differences between cartilage and subchondral bone stresses.

Conclusions: The resultant subchondral bone stresses modeled here coincide with findings that acetabular subchondral bone is denser in hips with cam lesions. Future laboratory studies will expand the parametric finite element analyses, varying these anatomic and subchondral bone stiffness parameters to better understand the contributions to the pathomechanism of FAI.

Clinical relevance: Individuals with a cam deformity and more varus neck orientation may experience elevated subchondral bone stresses, which may increase the risks of early clinical signs and degenerative processes associated with FAI, whereas individuals with cam morphology and normal-to-higher femoral neck-shaft angles may be at lesser risk of disease progression that would potentially require surgical intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone and Bones / physiopathology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiopathology*
  • Femoracetabular Impingement / diagnostic imaging
  • Femoracetabular Impingement / physiopathology*
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed