Knee muscle moment arms from MRI and from tendon travel

J Biomech. 1992 Feb;25(2):201-6. doi: 10.1016/0021-9290(92)90276-7.


We tested magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a means to collect geometric data for moment arm estimation. A knee specimen in five successive flexion postures was scanned by MRI, while simultaneously tendon positions of loaded muscles were measured (long head of biceps femoris, lateral and medial gastrocnemius, gracilis, rectus femoris, sartorius, semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and tensor fasciae latae). Discrete rotation centres were derived from MRI pictures. Moment arms were estimated as the distances from these centres to the tendons. The ratio of tendon travel over the increment of joint angulation was the alternative, more reliable estimate of the moment arm. An important principal shortcoming of MRI is the impossibility of accounting for force distribution in taut tissue. As a consequence, for some muscles, considerable inaccuracies in moment arm estimation are found in a relatively small range of joint angulation (up to about 30% for the rectus femoris and semimembranosus). For the tensor fasciae latae, the moment arm cannot be estimated by MRI, while the estimate by tendon travel is unreliable owing to the deformability and attachments of the fascia lata.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Elasticity
  • Fascia Lata / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Movement
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Patella / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Viscosity