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J Hand Surg Am. 1992 Sep;17(5):799-804.

How musculotendon architecture and joint geometry affect the capacity of muscles to move and exert force on objects: a review with application to arm and forearm tendon transfer design.

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Biomechanical Engineering Program, Stanford University, Calif. 94305-4021.


This commentary reviews musculotendon architecture and the relation between architectural parameters and the force, speed, and excursion capacity of musculotendon units. It is hoped that this review will help provide the framework within which to appreciate the importance of the data presented by Lieber et al. Muscle fiber pennation hardly affects musculotendon output of forearm and hand muscles. Instead, physiologic cross-sectional area and muscle fiber length affect force capacity and speed and excursion capacity, respectively. How muscles with equal mass can have different force, speed, and excursion capacities is explained. Since the moment arm of a muscle (the shortest distance from the musculotendon unit to the joint center of rotation) transforms muscle output into musculotendon output, it is shown why the capacity for a muscle to exert force on an object, as during grasping, is directly proportional to its moment arm and why the range of joint movement and speed over which muscles exert force is inversely proportional to the moment arm. Finally, tendon, being not stiff in forearm and hand musculotendon units, also affects their output. Criteria are given for designing tendon transfer reconstructions from architectural data and moment arm data to best replicate the biomechanical function of the replaced muscle. To have the same capacity for imparting movement to objects and exerting force on them, the donor muscle should have the same moment arm/physiologic cross-sectional area product, the same fiber length/moment arm ratio, and the same tendon length/muscle fiber length ratio as the replaced muscle.

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