The Nonintuitive Contributions of Individual Quadriceps Muscles to Patellar Tracking

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
  • | 2 Biomechanics Laboratory, School of Sports, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, SC, Brazil
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The purpose of this study was to quantify the contribution of the individual quadriceps muscles to patellar tracking. The individual and/or combined quadriceps muscles were activated in rabbits (n = 6) during computer-controlled flexion/extension of the knee. Three-dimensional patellar tracking was measured for the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris when activated alone and when activated simultaneously at different frequencies, producing a range of knee extensor torques. Patellar tracking changed substantially as a function of knee extensor torque and differed between muscles. Specifically, when all quadriceps muscles were activated simultaneously, the patella shifted more medially and proximally and rotated and tilted more medially compared with when vastus lateralis and rectus femoris were activated alone (P < .05), whereas vastus medialis activation alone produced a similar tracking pattern to that observed when all quadriceps muscles were activated simultaneously. Furthermore, patellar tracking for a given muscle condition shifted more medially and proximally and rotated and tilted more medially with increasing knee extensor torques across the entire range of knee joint angles. The authors conclude that patellar tracking depends crucially on knee extensor force/torque and that vastus medialis affects patellar tracking in a distinctly different way than vastus lateralis and rectus femoris, which produce similar tracking patterns.

Han (seongwon.han@ucalgary.ca) is corresponding author.

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