Structural behaviour and strain distribution of the long bones of the human lower limbs

Luca Cristofolini, Giorgia Conti, Mateusz Juszczyk, Sara Cremonini, Serge Van Sint Jan, Marco Viceconti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although stiffness and strength of lower limb bones have been investigated in the past, information is not complete. While the femur has been extensively investigated, little information is available about the strain distribution in the tibia, and the fibula has not been tested in vitro. This study aimed at improving the understanding of the biomechanics of lower limb bones by: (i) measuring the stiffness and strain distributions of the different low limb bones; (ii) assessing the effect of viscoelasticity in whole bones within a physiological range of strain-rates; (iii) assessing the difference in the behaviour in relation to opposite directions of bending and torsion. The structural stiffness and strain distribution of paired femurs, tibias and fibulas from two donors were measured. Each region investigated of each bone was instrumented with 8-16 triaxial strain gauges (over 600 grids in total). Each bone was subjected to 6-12 different loading configurations. Tests were replicated at two different loading speeds covering the physiological range of strain-rates. Viscoelasticity did not have any pronounced effect on the structural stiffness and strain distribution, in the physiological range of loading rates explored in this study. The stiffness and strain distribution varied greatly between bone segments, but also between directions of loading. Different stiffness and strain distributions were observed when opposite directions of torque or opposite directions of bending (in the same plane) were applied. To our knowledge, this study represents the most extensive collection of whole-bone biomechanical properties of lower limb bones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-835
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 22 2010


  • Femur
  • Fibula
  • In vitro biomechanical testing
  • Lower limb bones
  • Strain distribution
  • Structural stiffness
  • Tibia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering


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