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People With Patellofemoral Pain Have Bilateral Deficits in Physical Performance Regardless of Pain Laterality.

CONTEXT: People with patellofemoral pain (PFP) may have lower performance during the forward step-down and single-leg hop with their painful (unilateral complaints) or most painful (bilateral complaints) limb when compared to pain-free controls. Yet, no study has investigated the appropriateness of using the pain-free/less painful limb as a reference standard in clinical practice or whether deficits might be present depending on the laterality of pain.

OBJECTIVE: To compare performance scores and proportion of side-to-side limb symmetry during the forward step-down and single-leg hop tests among people with unilateral and bilateral PFP, and pain-free controls.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Laboratory.

PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Fifty-two young adults (18-35 years old) with unilateral PFP, 72 with bilateral PFP, and 76 controls.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Group-by-limb interactions on the performance during the step- down (repetitions) and hop test (distance [cm] normalized by the limb length) were investigated using a repeated-measures analysis of covariance controlling for sex. Pairwise comparisons were interpreted using effect sizes. A Chi-square test was used to compare the proportion of symmetry/asymmetry (cutoff point of ≥ 90% for symmetries indices) across groups and tests.

RESULTS: Main effects for groups (small-to-medium effects) but not limbs indicated lower performance of both limbs of individuals with unilateral and bilateral PFP compared to controls during forward step-downs and single-leg hop tests. No significant differences for the proportion of symmetry/asymmetry were identified across groups (p ≥ 0.05), which further suggests an impaired physical performance of the contralateral limb.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate bilateral deficits in the physical performance of people with unilateral and bilateral PFP when compared to pain-free controls during the forward step-down and single-leg hop tests. Limb symmetries indices greater than 90% should be interpreted with caution, as they may overstate the physical performance by not assuming bilateral deficits.

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