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Risk factors for patellofemoral pain syndrome

Lankhorst NE, Bierma-Zeinstra SM, van Middelkoop M. Risk factors for patellofemoral pain syndrome: a systematic review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Feb;42(2):81–94. PubMed #22031622.
Tags: etiology, biomechanics, patellar pain, pro, arthritis, aging, pain problems, knee, leg, limbs, overuse injury, injury, running, exercise, self-treatment, treatment

PainSci summary of Lankhorst 2012?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

The authors only included prospective studies in their review, which are studies that follow people over time — starting before they develop pain. This is a much better way of observing risk factors than the typical cross-sectional study design that could never say “which came first.”

Out of 13 possible risk factors commonly studied, including numerous popularly blamed biomechanical factors, only knee extension (quadriceps) weakness stood out as a significant predictor of developing PFPS.

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review.

OBJECTIVES: To systematically outline the risk factors for patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).

BACKGROUND: PFPS is the most commonly diagnosed condition in young individuals with knee complaints. High incidence among athletes suggests a possibility of prevention. The first step toward prevention is identification of possible risk factors.

METHODS: Prospective studies that included 20 or more patients with PFPS and examined at least 1 possible risk factor for PFPS were included. An assessment list was applied to evaluate the quality of the studies. A meta-analysis was conducted using a random-effects model. Significant differences were based on calculated mean differences, with matching 95% confidence intervals (CIs). For dichotomous data, odds ratios or relative risks were calculated.

RESULTS: Of the 3845 potentially relevant articles, 7 were included in this review. These studies examined a total of 135 variables, and pooling was possible for 13 potential risk factors. The pooled data showed that knee extension peak torques were significantly lower in the PFPS group than in controls. Mean differences in torque, with negative differences reflecting lower means in the PFPS group, were as follows: (a) standardized relative to body weight at 60°/s, -0.24 Nm (95% CI: -0.39, -0.09); (b) standardized relative to body weight at 240°/s, -0.11 Nm (95% CI: -0.17, -0.05); (c) standardized relative to body mass index at 60°/s, -0.84 Nm (95% CI: -1.23, -0.44); (d) standardized relative to body mass index at 240°/s, -0.32 Nm (95% CI: -0.52, -0.12); (e) nonstandardized in a concentric mode at 60°/s, -17.54 Nm (95% CI: -25.53, -9.54); (f) nonstandardized in a concentric mode at 240°/s, -7.72 Nm (95% CI: -12.67, -2.77).

CONCLUSION: Weaker knee extension strength, expressed by peak torque, appears to be a risk factor for PFPS, based on meta-analyses of pooled results from multiple studies. Because several other risk factors for PFPS were described only in single studies, these additional risk factors, as well as those with conflicting evidence, need to be confirmed in future studies.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognosis, level 1a-.

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