Acute effects of walking on the deformation of femoral articular cartilage in older adults

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Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy

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Although discomfort during walking is a common complaint in individuals with knee osteoarthritis (OA), how an acute bout of walking affects femoral cartilage remains unclear. Current literature has suggested that frontal plane knee malalignment (ie, varus and valgus) is associated with the initiation and/or progression of knee OA. However, the association between knee alignment and femoral cartilage deformation after an acute bout of loading has not yet been investigated. This study was aimed to compare the acute effects of walking on femoral cartilage deformation between older adults with and without knee OA. We also examined the association between frontal plane knee alignment and loading-induced femoral cartilage deformation.Ten persons without OA (Kellgren Lawrence grading = 0 or 1; 5 females and 5 males; 55.0 [1.8] years of age; 78.8 [14.1] kg; 1.8 [0.2] m and 9 persons with OA (Kellgren Lawrence grading ≥2; 4 females and 5 males; 55.6 [4.5] years of age; 97.4 [15.0] kg; 1.7 [0.1] m) participated. Each participant underwent magnetic resonance imaging before and immediately after 30 minutes of fast walking at 3 to 4 miles per hour. To obtain cartilage deformation postwalking, the medial and lateral femoral cartilage of the weight-bearing areas was segmented on participants' magnetic resonance imaging. Cartilage thickness was quantified by computing the average perpendicular distance between opposing voxels defining the edges of the femoral cartilage. Cartilage deformation of the medial and lateral femurs was defined as the percent changes in cartilage thickness after walking. Frontal plane knee alignment was obtained by measuring the angle between the long axes of femur and tibia. Independent t tests were used to compare cartilage deformation between the 2 groups. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to assess the association between cartilage deformation and knee alignment.There was no significant difference in cartilage deformation between the OA and control groups in lateral (P= .69) or medial (P = .87) femur. A significant correlation was found between lateral femoral cartilage deformation and increased knee valgus alignment (r= 0.497; P = .03). No difference was found between medial femoral cartilage deformation and frontal plane knee alignment (r = 273; P = .26).This is the first study comparing the acute effects of walking on femoral cartilage deformation between older adults with and without knee OA. Although there was not a difference in walking-induced femoral cartilage deformation between the OA and control groups, knee valgus was related to lateral femoral cartilage deformation after walking. Our findings suggested that walking exercises may be used safely in older adults without knee malalignment.


Cartilage, Deformation, Knee, Osteoarthritis, Walking



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