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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2019 Feb;90:388-394. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2018.10.023. Epub 2018 Oct 16.

Shock absorbing ability in healthy and damaged cartilage-bone under high-rate compression.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia. Electronic address:


Articular cartilage is a soft tissue that distributes the loads in joints and transfers the compressive load to the underlying bone. At high rate and magnitudes of mechanical loading, cartilage and subchondral bone together are susceptible to damage. In addition, any disruption to the cartilage's structure, caused by injury, trauma or disorder such as osteoarthritis (OA), can alter the mechanism of load transfer from the cartilage to the underlying bone. Changes in the cartilage structure can also alter the ability of cartilage-bone to absorb and dissipate the impact energy. To investigate the effects of cartilage degradation on cartilage-bone shock absorption ability, the top 50% of the cartilage thickness was removed (modified cartilage) to mimic the cartilage thickness reduction in Grade III cartilage lesion and the remaining cartilage-bone unit (modified cartilage-bone) was compressed at high-rate (4% strain at 5 Hz). High-speed camera and microscope were used to capture microscopic deformation, and digital image correlation technique (DIC) employed to quantify the deformation of cartilage and bone. The mechanical properties (i.e. stiffness, strain, absorbed and dissipated energies) of cartilage and bone were calculated before and after the removal of the top 50% of the cartilage thickness, consisting of both the superficial tangential zone (STZ) and part of the middle zone of the cartilage. The results showed a significant degradation in the mechanical properties of the cartilage-bone unit after the removal of the top 50% cartilage thickness. The stiffness of the modified cartilage reduced significantly (by ~39%) and energy absorption in underlying bone increased by 32%, which can make the bone more vulnerable to damage in the modified cartilage-bone unit. In addition, the energy dissipation in the modified cartilage-bone unit was also increased by approximately 14%. These changes in mechanical properties suggest a crucial role of the STZ and middle zone (within the top 50% cartilage thickness) in protecting the underlying bone from the severe compressive impact loading. Results also indicated that under physiological contact stress of 7 MPa, strain in damaged cartilage was increased by 3.22% without affecting the mechanical behaviour of the underlying bone.


Bone; Cartilage; Energy absorption; Energy dissipation; Impact loading

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