That's what Duke University researchers say in a study presented today at the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Even minor bow-leggedness can lead to future trouble that may include degenerative arthritis. The researchers say doctors should closely monitor all young people who have reconstructive knee surgery to ensure leg bones stay properly aligned.Surgery to correct bow-leggedness may be necessary in some cases, the researchers say.
"Even a relatively small malalignment in normal knees can cause dramatic alterations in the pressures within the knee joint, and this negative effect can be greatly magnified if the cartilage within the knee has been damaged," says researcher Dr. Joseph Guettler, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine fellow at Duke.
He and his colleagues took eight human knees from cadavers and placed them in an apparatus that creates loading across the knee joint. They measured pressures over the cartilage within the knee joint.
They found that just three degrees of malalignment can lead to serious cartilage deformation. That degree of malalignment more than doubled the pressures on the middle of the knee joint and increased peak contact pressures by 68 percent.
Such uneven pressures within the joint cause uneven wear and tear, leading to painful and potentially debilitating osteoarthritis, the Duke researchers say.
For more on knee surgery, go to About.com.