Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFS) is a knee overuse syndrome associated with abnormal tracking between the patella (kneecap) and the femur, which results in pain and tenderness around the patella. PFS is especially prevalent in young female athletes; active female athletes are up to three times more likely to experience PFS compared to young male athletes. In addition to disparities in muscle growth between male and female adolescents, female susceptibility to PFS can be partially explained by females’ exhibiting greater quadriceps to hamstring flexibility. This means that the quad muscles are likely limited in their ability to pull the knee completely straight on their own, leading to increased friction between the femur and patella. Quad muscle weakness – specifically vastus medialis oblique (VMO) weakness – is very common in young athletes with PFS.
Physical therapy is often used to treat PFS by strengthening muscles like the VMO, improving range of motion and quadriceps flexibility, and providing education and instruction regarding proper body mechanics. With physical therapy, young athletes with PFS not only improve their strength and flexibility, but they also learn how to adjust their body mechanics to prevent future injuries and optimize performance in their sports.