Do exercises for patellofemoral pain reflect common injury mechanisms? A systematic review

J Sci Med Sport. 2021 Mar;24(3):229-240. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2020.09.001. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


Objectives: Current best evidence has reported that therapeutic exercise programs that are designed to treat patellofemoral pain (PFP) should include both hip and knee specific exercises. The purpose of this review was to (1) examine the quality/comprehensiveness of exercise reporting in this field; (2) quantify the extent to which individual exercises comprised task-specific elements (single limb stance; eccentric control of the hip; rotational z-axis control) most likely to address key pathomechanics associated with PFP.

Design: Systematic review: a systematic survey of RCTs.

Methods: PubMed, CINAHL, Medline, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) and SPORT Discus databases were searched for randomized controlled trials that addressed PFP utilizing a proximal control hip focused rehabilitation paradigm. The therapeutic exercise programs were evaluated, and each individual exercise was extracted for analysis. Quality assessments included the PEDro Scale and the Consensus on Exercise Reporting Template (CERT) was utilized to score the reporting of the interventions.

Results: 19 studies were included in the final analysis. 178 total exercises were extracted from the proximal hip and knee rehabilitation programs. The exercises were analyzed for the inclusion of elements that align with reported underlying biomechanical mechanisms.

Conclusions: The vast majority of the exercises were sagittal plane, concentric, non-weight bearing exercises, whereas multiplanar exercises, single limb weightbearing, and exercises where loading was directed around the longitudinal z-axis, were considerably under-represented. Current exercises for PFP utilize simplistic frameworks that lack progression into more task specific exercise, and are not reflective of the complex injury etiology.

Keywords: Exercise; Hip; Knee; Patellofemoral pain; Proximal muscle rehabilitation; Sports.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Hip Joint
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / etiology
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic