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Sex differences in knee cartilage volume in adults: role of body and bone size, age and physical activity


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Ding, C, Cicuttini, F, Scott, F, Mike, G and Jones, G 2003 , 'Sex differences in knee cartilage volume in adults: role of body and bone size, age and physical activity' , Rheumatology, vol. 42, no. 11 , pp. 1317-1323 , doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keg374.

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Objective. To test the hypothesis that sex differences in knee cartilage volume may be mediated through body and bone size, age and/or physical activity.

Methods. A cross-sectional convenience sample of 372 subjects (males 43%; mean age 45 yr, range 26-61) was studied. Articular cartilage volumes and bone size were determined at the patella, medial and lateral tibia by processing images acquired in the sagittal plane using T1-weighted fat saturation magnetic resonance imaging. Height, weight, physical activity (lower limb muscle strength, endurance fitness and questionnaire items) and radiographic osteoarthritis (ROA) were measured.

Results. Gender explained 33-42% of the variation in knee cartilage volumes (all P < 0.001). Males had 33-42% higher cartilage volume than females at all sites. In the whole group, the magnitude of sex differences decreased to 8-18% after adjustment for body height, weight and bone size, but remained significant (all P < 0.05). Further adjustment for physical activity had no effect on the sex differences. The sex differences in cartilage volume were greater in those aged over 50 compared with those aged under 50 (P < 0.05 for age-sex interaction at all sites) and were independent of ROA.

Conclusions. Men have substantially higher knee cartilage volumes than women. These sex differences appear to be mediated in part by body and bone size but a significant amount remains unexplained. Furthermore, the differences become more marked over the age of 50 yr suggesting that both cartilage development and cartilage loss in later life contribute to sex differences in cartilage volume. Further longitudinal studies in large samples will be required to confirm these findings.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Ding, C and Cicuttini, F and Scott, F and Mike, G and Jones, G
Keywords: Knee, Cartilage, Volume, Sex, Age
Journal or Publication Title: Rheumatology
ISSN: 1462-0324
DOI / ID Number: 10.1093/rheumatology/keg374
Additional Information:

The definitive publisher-authenticated version of Rheumatology 2003; 42: 1317-1323 is available online at:

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