Links between Patellofemoral Biomechanics and Osteoarthritis

One in ten Canadians suffers from osteoarthritis, an incurable disease that causes pain and limits motion in joints. It occurs most often in the knee joint; the patellofemoral joint, which is located at the juncture of the kneecap and thigh bone, is involved in half of these cases. Emily McWalter’s research is focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of patellofemoral osteoarthritis. It is widely believed that biomechanical factors, such as abnormal joint motion and excessive force exerted on bone and cartilage are related to the onset and progression of osteoarthritis. While treatment focuses on correcting abnormal joints through surgery or physiotherapy, these treatments do little to slow progression of the disease. That’s likely because the procedures do not correct all of the biomechanical factors contributing to the damage. With recent advances in MRI imaging, it’s now possible to study biomechanical factors and cartilage degeneration simultaneously. Emily McWalter’s research is focused on developing better methods of detecting and identifying the causes of cartilage degeneration earlier. She is currently working to develop and validate a tool that can estimate the pressure that develops on the surface of cartilage, with a view to using this information to determine if areas under abnormal levels of pressure are at greater risk for degeneration. If successful, this tool will be a valuable asset in understanding the onset and development of patellofemoral osteoarthritis and in assessing the effectiveness of surgeries and other biomechanics-based treatment strategies.