Kinematic and kinetic differences between military patients with patellar tendinopathy and asymptomatic controls during single leg squats

© 2019 Background: Knee valgus alignment has been associated with lower-limb musculoskeletal injury. This case-control study aims to: assess biomechanical differences between patients with patellar tendinopathy and healthy controls. Methods: 43 military participants (21 cases, 22 controls) were recorded using 3D-motion capture performing progressively demanding, small knee bend, single leg and single leg decline squats. Planned a priori analysis of peak: hip adduction, knee flexion, pelvic tilt, pelvic obliquity and trunk flexion was conducted using MANOVA. Kinematic and kinetic data were graphed with bootstrapped t-tests and 95% CI's normalised to the squat cycle. ANOVA and correlations in SPSS were used for exploratory analysis. Findings: On their symptomatic side cases squatted to less depth (−6.62° p < 0.05) than controls with exploratory curve analysis revealing a pattern of increased knee valgus collapse throughout the squatting movement (p < 0.05). Greater patella tendon force was generated by: the eccentric than concentric phase of squatting (+30–43%, ES 0.52–1.32, p < 0.01), declined (plantarflexed) compared to horizontal surface (+36–51%, ES 1.19–1.68, p < 0.01) and deeper knee flexion angles (F ≥ 658.3, p < 0.01) with no difference between groups (F ≤ 1.380, p > 0.05). Cases experienced more pain on testing on decline board (ES = 0.69, p < 0.01). For symptomatic limbs pain (r s = 0.458–0.641, p ≤ 0.05), but not VISA-P (Victoria Institute of Sport Assessment) (r s = 0.053–0.090, p > 0.05), correlated with extensor knee moment. Interpretation: Knee valgus alignment is a plausible risk factor for patellar tendinopathy. Conclusions relating to causation are limited by the cross-sectional study design. Increasing squat depth, use of a declined surface and isolating the eccentric phase enable progression of loading prescription guided by pain.