Hip and ankle kinematics are the most important predictors of knee joint loading during bicycling
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OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of ankle, knee, and hip kinematics on patellofemoral and tibiofemoral joint reaction forces (JRF) during bicycling. Secondarily, to assess if sex, horizontal saddle position, or crank arm length were related to JRFs, after accounting for kinematics. DESIGN: Experimental cross-sectional study. METHODS: Forty healthy adults (mean (SD); 28.6 (7.2) years, 24.2 (2.6)kg/m2, 17 women) bicycled under 18 bicycling positions. One position used commercial guidelines and 17 randomly deviated from commercial. Resultant patellofemoral as well as compressive and shear tibiofemoral JRFs were calculated. Linear mixed-effects models with a random intercept of leg-nested-in-participant were used. RESULTS: Patellofemoral resultant forces were most sensitive to all joint kinematics (i.e., sensitivity was defined as the slope of single predictor models); all JRFs were least sensitive to minimum knee flexion. Tibiofemoral compression was predicted by minimum hip flexion and maximum ankle dorsiflexion (R2=0.90). Tibiofemoral shear (R2=0.86) and the resultant patellofemoral JRF (R2=0.90) were predicted by minimum hip flexion, maximum ankle dorsiflexion, minimum knee flexion, and the interaction between minimum hip flexion and minimum knee flexion. Adding sex as a factor improved fit of all models. This sex-effect was driven by differences in cycling intensity, reflected by the tangential crank arm force. Horizontal saddle position and crank arm length were not related to JRFs. CONCLUSIONS: Optimizing joint kinematics should be the primary goal of bicycle-fit. JRFs were least sensitive to the current gold standard for assessing bicycle-fit, minimum knee flexion. Bicycle-fit is of particular importance for those working at high intensities.
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