Relationships Between Age at Menarche, Walking Gait Base of Support, and Stance Phase Frontal Plane Knee Biomechanics in Adolescent Girls

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Background Age at menarche impacts patterns of pubertal growth and skeletal development. These effects may carry over into variation in biomechanical profiles involved in sports-related traumatic and overuse knee injuries. The present study investigated whether age at menarche is a potential indicator of knee injury risk through its influence on knee biomechanics during normal walking. Objective To test the hypothesis that earlier menarche is related to postpubertal biomechanical risk factors for knee injuries, including a wider, more immature gait base of support, and greater valgus knee angles and moments. Design Cross-sectional observational study. Setting University research facility. Participants Healthy, postmenarcheal, adolescent girls. Methods Age at menarche was obtained by recall questionnaire. Pubertal growth and anthropometric data were collected by using standard methods. Biomechanical data were taken from tests of walking gait at self-selected speed. Reflective marker position data were collected with a 3-dimensional quantitative motion analysis system, and 3 force plates recorded kinetic data. Main Outcome Measures Age at menarche; growth and anthropometric measurements; base of support; static knee frontal plane angle; and dynamic knee frontal plane angles and moments during stance. Results Earlier menarche was correlated significantly with abbreviated pubertal growth and postpubertal retention of immature traits, including a wider base of support. Earlier menarche and wider base of support were both correlated with more valgus static knee angles, more valgus knee abduction angles and moments at foot-strike, and a more valgus peak knee abduction angle during stance. Peak knee abduction moment during stance was not correlated with age at menarche or base of support. Conclusions Earlier menarche and its effects on growth are associated with retention of a relatively immature gait base of support and a tendency for static and dynamic valgus knee alignment. This biomechanical profile may put girls with earlier menarche at greater risk for sports-related knee injuries. Level of Evidence Not applicable.