The response of healthy and diseased cartilage of the knee to the mechanics of walking is examined, with the goal of providing insight into the relationship between the kinematics and kinetics of the knee during walking and the maintenance of cartilage health. The combination of information from three-dimensional thickness models of cartilage derived from magnetic resonance imaging and the analysis of the interaction between load at the knee and kinematic changes during walking associated with loss of the anterior cruciate ligament demonstrated the importance of considering walking mechanics as an important factor in the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis. In particular, this material suggests that knee cartilage becomes conditioned to loading and to the large number of repetitive cycles of loading that occur during walking and that healthy cartilage homeostasis is maintained as long as there are no changes to the normal patterns of locomotion, the structure of the knee joint, or cartilage biology. Thus, there is the potential for a degenerative pathway to be initiated when a condition such as anterior cruciate ligament injury causes the repetitive loading during walking to shift to a new location. The sensitivity of cartilage to the kinematic changes is illustrated with the anterior cruciate ligament-deficient knee and the regional variations in cartilage morphology. The material presented here supports the conclusion that individual variations in the range of loading and kinematics at the knee during walking can have a profound influence on the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis of the knee.
1Departments of Mechanical Engineering (T.P.A., S.K., and S.F.S.), Orthopaedic Surgery (T.P.A.), and Radiology (S.K.), and the Department of Veterans Affairs Bone and Joint Center of Palo Alto, CA (T.P.A. and S.F.S.), Stanford University, Durand Building, Room 225, 496 Lomita Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-4038. E-mail address for T.P. Andriacchi: firstname.lastname@example.org