Sex differences in the regularity and symmetry of gait in older adults with and without knee osteoarthritis
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BACKGROUND: Three-dimensional (3D) motion measured at the lower back during walking can describe the regularity and symmetry of gait that may be related to osteoarthritis (OA) and functional status. However, gait speed and inherent sex differences, regardless of the presence of OA, may confound these measures. Therefore, there is a need to understand the effect of OA separately among males and females, without the confounding influence of gait speed. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the difference in 3D gait regularity and symmetry measures between gait speed-matched males and females with and without knee OA. METHOD: Gait regularity and symmetry were computed as autocorrelations of pelvic accelerations during treadmill walking in four groups of older adults: healthy asymptomatic females (AsymF; n = 44), healthy asymptomatic males (AsymM; n = 45), females diagnosed with knee OA (OAF; n = 44), and males diagnosed with knee OA (OAM; n = 45). Data were obtained from a larger research database, allowing for the matching of gait speed between groups. The main effect of OA, sex, and interaction effect between them was examined for the 3D gait regularity and symmetry measures at an alpha level of 0.05. RESULTS: There was no main effect of OA on any variable, but there was a significant main effect of sex on mediolateral and anteroposterior gait regularity measures. Specifically, females demonstrated significantly greater gait regularity, most notably in the mediolateral directions compared to males. CONCLUSION: Older adult females were found to display significantly greater mediolateral gait regularity as compared to males, regardless of the presence of OA. Further, this difference exists among matched gait speeds, suggesting it is not the result of gait speed. Overall, these results highlight the importance of sex-specific analyses and considering gait speed when examining gait acceleration patterns near the center of mass for both cross sectional and longitudinal gait assessments.
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