Anterior knee pain from the evolutionary perspective

A. Paul Monk, H S Gill, C. L. Gibbons, Andrew J. Price, Fritz Vollrath, Jonathan Rees, David Murray

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Background: This paper describes the evolutionary changes in morphology and orientation of the PFJ using species present through our ancestry over 340 million years.
Methods: 37 specimens from the Devonian period to modern day were scanned using a 64-slice CT scanner. 3D geometries were created following routine segmentation and anatomical measurements taken from standardised bony landmarks.
Results: Findings are described according to gait strategy and age. The adoption of an upright bi-pedal stance caused a dramatic change in the loading of the PFJ which has subsequently led to changes in the arrangement of the PFJ. From Devonian to Miocene periods, our sprawling and climbing ancestors possessed a broad knee with a shallow, centrally located trochlea. A more rounded knee was present from the Paleolithic period onwards in erect and bipedal gait types (aspect ratio 0.93 vs 1.2 in late Devonian), with the PFJ being placed lateral to the midline compared to the medial position in quadrapeds. The depth of the trochlea groove was maximal in the Miocene period of the African ground apes with associated acute sulcus angles in Gorilla (117°) becoming more flattened towards the modern human (138°).
Conclusions: The evolving bipedal gait lead to anteriorisation of the patellofemoral joint, flattening of the trochlea sulcus, in a more lateral, dislocation prone arrangement. Ancestral developments might help explain the variety of presentations of anterior knee pain and patellofemoral instability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalThe Knee
Early online date5 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


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