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J Biomech Eng. 2003 Apr;125(2):161-8.

Strain-rate dependent stiffness of articular cartilage in unconfined compression.

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Biosyntech Inc., 475 Armand-Frappier Blvd., Park of Science and High Technology Laval, Quebec, Canada H7V 4B3.

Erratum in

  • J Biomech Eng. 2003 Aug;125(4):566.


The stiffness of articular cartilage is a nonlinear function of the strain amplitude and strain rate as well as the loading history, as a consequence of the flow of interstitial water and the stiffening of the collagen fibril network. This paper presents a full investigation of the interplay between the fluid kinetics and fibril stiffening of unconfined cartilage disks by analyzing over 200 cases with diverse material properties. The lower and upper elastic limits of the stress (under a given strain) are uniquely established by the instantaneous and equilibrium stiffness (obtained numerically for finite deformations and analytically for small deformations). These limits could be used to determine safe loading protocols in order that the stress in each solid constituent remains within its own elastic limit. For a given compressive strain applied at a low rate, the loading is close to the lower limit and is mostly borne directly by the solid constituents (with little contribution from the fluid). In contrast, however in case of faster compression, the extra loading is predominantly transported to the fibrillar matrix via rising fluid pressure with little increase of stress in the nonfibrillar matrix. The fibrillar matrix absorbs the loading increment by self-stiffening: the quicker the loading the faster the fibril stiffening until the upper elastic loading limit is reached. This self-protective mechanism prevents cartilage from damage since the fibrils are strong in tension. The present work demonstrates the ability of the fibril reinfored poroelastic models to describe the strain rate dependent behavior of articular cartilage in unconfined compression using a mechanism of fibril stiffening mainly induced by the fluid flow.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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