The biomechanical disadvantage of dysplastic hips

Michael D. Harris, Molly C. Shepherd, Ke Song, Brecca M.M. Gaffney, Travis J. Hillen, Marcie Harris-Hayes, John C. Clohisy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is strongly associated with an increased risk for hip osteoarthritis. Skeletal deformities undeniably contribute to detrimental biomechanical loading in dysplastic hips, but cannot explain all types of damage and symptoms that patients with DDH experience. Characterizing the geometry and function of the muscles spanning the hip is a logical next step in our progression of knowledge about DDH pathomechanics. In this study, we compared skeletal geometry, muscle volumes, intramuscular fatty infiltration, moment arms, and isometric strength in patients with DDH (N = 20) to healthy controls (N = 15). Femoral coverage was significantly less in patients (p < 0.001, Cohen's d effect size = 2.2), femoral neck-shaft angles were larger (p = 0.001, d = 1.3), and hip joint centers (HJCs) were more lateral (p = 0.001, d = 1.3). These skeletal abnormalities were associated with smaller abductor muscle moment arms in patients with DDH (e.g., gluteus medius [GMED]: p = 0.001, d = 1.2). Patients with DDH also had larger GMED volumes (p = 0.02, d = 0.83), but no differences in fatty infiltration, compared to controls. Isometric strength of the hip abductors, extensors, and flexors was lower in patients, but not significantly different from controls. The abnormal skeletal geometry, lateralized HJC, and reduced muscle moment arms represent a chronic biomechanical disadvantage under which patients with DDH operate. This phenomenon causes increased demand on the abductor muscles and results in high medially and superiorly directed joint reaction forces, which can explain reports of superomedial femoral cartilage damage in patients. The abnormal muscle geometry and function, in context with abnormal skeletal structure, are likely strong, but underappreciated, contributors to damaging loads in DDH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1387-1396
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • biomechanical disadvantage
  • developmental dysplasia of the hip
  • hip biomechanics
  • muscle moment arms
  • muscle volume


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