An Integrated Musculoskeletal-Finite-Element Model to Evaluate Effects of Load Carriage on the Tibia During Walking

J Biomech Eng. 2016 Oct 1;138(10). doi: 10.1115/1.4034216.


Prior studies have assessed the effects of load carriage on the tibia. Here, we expand on these studies and investigate the effects of load carriage on joint reaction forces (JRFs) and the resulting spatiotemporal stress/strain distributions in the tibia. Using full-body motion and ground reaction forces from a female subject, we computed joint and muscle forces during walking for four load carriage conditions. We applied these forces as physiological loading conditions in a finite-element (FE) analysis to compute strain and stress. We derived material properties from computed tomography (CT) images of a sex-, age-, and body mass index-matched subject using a mesh morphing and mapping algorithm, and used them within the FE model. Compared to walking with no load, the knee JRFs were the most sensitive to load carriage, increasing by as much as 26.2% when carrying a 30% of body weight (BW) load (ankle: 16.4% and hip: 19.0%). Moreover, our model revealed disproportionate increases in internal JRFs with increases in load carriage, suggesting a coordinated adjustment in the musculature functions in the lower extremity. FE results reflected the complex effects of spatially varying material properties distribution and muscular engagement on tibial biomechanics during walking. We observed high stresses on the anterior crest and the medial surface of the tibia at pushoff, whereas high cumulative stress during one walking cycle was more prominent in the medioposterior aspect of the tibia. Our findings reinforce the need to include: (1) physiologically accurate loading conditions when modeling healthy subjects undergoing short-term exercise training and (2) the duration of stress exposure when evaluating stress-fracture injury risk. As a fundamental step toward understanding the instantaneous effect of external loading, our study presents a means to assess the relationship between load carriage and bone biomechanics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Compressive Strength / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength / physiology
  • Tibia / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*