Unpacking the Tibial Tubercle–Trochlear Groove Distance: Evaluation of Rotational Factors, Trochlear Groove and Tibial Tubercle Position, and Role of Trochlear Dysplasia

J. Lee Pace, Mauricio Drummond, Michael Brimacombe, Chris Cheng, David Chiu, S. Brandon Luczak, Jeffrey B. Shroff, Francine Zeng, Greg M. Kanski, Rafael Kakazu, Andrew Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The tibial tubercle to trochlear groove (TT-TG) distance is often utilized for determining the surgical treatment for patients with patellar instability (PI). It is thought to directly represent the position of the TT on the tibia. Recent work has shown that the measurement of the TT-TG distance is multifactorial. Purpose: To investigate the relationship between relative tibial external rotation (rTER) and trochlear dysplasia (TD), as well as the location of the TG and TT in patients with and without PI, and to correlate these and other anatomic measurements with the TT-TG distance. Study Design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: A total of 89 patients with PI who underwent magnetic resonance imaging were identified with 92 matched control patients. A standardized measurement protocol on axial magnetic resonance imaging determined rTER, the proximal and distal TG lateralization (pTGL and dTGL, respectively) ratios, and the TT lateralization (TTL) ratio. Other measures of interest included the lateral trochlear inclination angle, sulcus angle, and lateral patellar inclination angle. Univariate regression was used to determine the associations of TD (lateral trochlear inclination angle, sulcus angle) with rTER and the TG position, and multivariate regression was used to model associations among all the variables with the proximal and distal TT-TG distances. Results: rTER was significantly higher in the study group (P <.001), and univariate regression showed a significant association between dysplasia measures and rTER (P <.001). The pTGL ratio was lower in the study group (P =.025), but there was no difference in the dTGL ratio (P =.090) or the TTL ratio (P =.098) between the groups. There were no associations between dysplasia measures and the pTGL and dTGL ratios (P >.05). Multivariate regression showed that the proximal TT-TG distance is predicted by the sulcus angle, pTGL ratio, rTER, and TTL ratio (P <.05) and that the distal TT-TG distance is predicted by the lateral patellar inclination angle, dTGL ratio, sulcus angle, rTER, and TTL ratio (P <.05). Conclusion: rTER had a significant association with TD. The position of the proximal TG was more medial in patients with PI. There was no significant difference in the TTL ratio between patients with and without PI. The TT-TG distance was associated with multiple anatomic measures and was not solely predicated on the position of the TT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-24
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • patellar instability
  • relative tibial external rotation
  • tibial tubercle
  • trochlear dysplasia
  • trochlear groove

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Unpacking the Tibial Tubercle–Trochlear Groove Distance: Evaluation of Rotational Factors, Trochlear Groove and Tibial Tubercle Position, and Role of Trochlear Dysplasia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this