In vivo strain of the medial vs. lateral quadriceps tendon in patellofemoral pain syndrome

Nicole A. Wilson, Joel M. Press, Li Qun Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Patellofemoral pain (PFP) is thought to be related to patellar maltracking due to imbalances in the knee extensor. However, no study has evaluated the in vivo biomechanical properties of the quadriceps tendon in PFP syndrome. Our purpose was to compare the biomechanical properties of the quadriceps tendons in vivo and noninvasively in patients with PFP syndrome to those of control subjects. The null hypothesis was that the quadriceps tendons of PFP subjects would have significantly decreased strain compared with control subjects. Fourteen subjects (7 control, 7 PFP) performed voluntary ramp isometric contractions to a range of torque levels, while quadriceps tendon elongation was measured using ultrasonography. Tendon strain was calculated for the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) and vastus lateralis (VL) portion of the quadriceps tendon and compared between subjects (control vs. PFP) and within subjects (VMO vs. VL). PFP subjects showed significantly less VMO tendon strain than control subjects (P < 0.001), but there was no difference in VL tendon strain between PFP and control subjects (P = 0.100). Relative weakness of the VMO is the most likely cause of the decreased tendon strain seen in subjects with PFP. VMO weakness not only explains the decreased medial tendon strain but also explains the presence of increased lateral patellar translation and lateral patellar spin (distal pole rotates laterally) reported in the literature in this population. This technique can potentially be used in a clinical setting to evaluate quadriceps tendon properties and infer the presence of muscle weakness in PFP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-428
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Mechanical properties
  • Muscle weakness
  • Patellar kinematics
  • Ultrasound
  • Vastus medialis obliquus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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