Longitudinal change in patellofemoral cartilage thickness, cartilage T2 relaxation times, and subchondral bone plate area in adolescent vs mature athletes Academic Article uri icon


  • Patellofemoral cartilage changes have been evaluated in knee trauma and osteoarthritis; however, little is known about changes in patellar and trochlear cartilage thickness, T2 relaxation-time and subchondral bone plate area (tAB) during growth. Our prospective study aimed to explore longitudinal change in patellofemoral cartilage thickness, T2 and tAB in adolescent athletes, and to compare these data with those of mature (i.e., adult) athletes.20 adolescent (age 16±1years) and 20 mature (46±5years) volleyball players were studied over 2-years (10 men and 10 women each group). 1.5T MRI 3D-VIBE and multi-echo spin-echo sequences were acquired at baseline and 2-year follow-up. Using manual segmentation and 3D reconstruction, longitudinal changes in patellar and trochlear cartilage thickness, patellar cartilage T2 (mono-exponential decay curve with five echoes [9.7-67.9ms]), and patellar and trochlear tAB were determined.The annual increase in both patellar and trochlear cartilage thickness was 0.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.6, 1.0) and 0.6% (0.3, 0.9), for adolescent males and females respectively; the longitudinal gain in patellar and trochlear tAB was 1.3% (1.1, 1.5) and 0.5% (0.2, 0.8), and 1.6% (1.1, 2.2) and 0.8% (0.3, 0.7) for adolescent males and females, respectively (no significant between-sex differences). Mature athletes showed smaller gains in tAB, and loss of <1% of cartilage thickness annually. While no significant sex-differences existed in adolescent patellar T2 changes, mature males gained significantly greater T2 than mature females (p=0.002-0.013).Patellar and trochlear cartilage thickness and tAB were observed to increase in young athletes in late adolescence, without significant differences between sexes. Mature athletes displayed patellar cartilage loss (and T2 increases in mature males), potentially reflecting degenerative changes.


  • Culvenor, Adam G
  • Wirth, Wolfgang
  • Maschek, Susanne
  • Boeth, Heide
  • Diederichs, Gerd
  • Duda, Georg
  • Eckstein, Felix

publication date

  • 2017