Individual Differences in Women During Walking Affect Tibial Response to Load Carriage: The Importance of Individualized Musculoskeletal Finite-Element Models

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2020 Feb;67(2):545-555. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2019.2917415. Epub 2019 May 30.


Subject-specific features can contribute to the susceptibility of an individual to stress fracture. Here, we incorporated tibial morphology and material properties into a standard musculoskeletal finite-element (M/FE) model and investigated how load carriage influences joint kinetics and tibial mechanics in women. We obtained the morphology and material properties of the tibia from computed tomography images for women of three distinctly different heights, 1.51 m (short), 1.63 m (medium), and 1.75 m (tall), and developed individualized M/FE models for each. Then, we calculated joint and muscle forces, and subsequently, tibial stress/strain for each woman walking at 1.3 m/s under various load conditions (0, 11.3, or 22.7 kg). Among the subjects investigated, using individualized and standard M/FE models, the joint reaction forces (JRFs) differed by up to 4 (hip), 22 (knee), and 26% (ankle), and the 90th percentile von Mises stress by up to 30% (tall woman). Load carriage evoked distinct biomechanical responses, with a 22.7-kg load decreasing the peak hip JRF during late stance by ∼18% in the short woman, while increasing it by ∼39% in the other two women. It also increased peak knee and ankle JRFs by up to ∼48 (tall woman) and ∼36% (short woman). The same load increased the 90th percentile von Mises stress (and corresponding cumulative stress) by 31 (28), 22 (30), and 27% (32%) in the short, medium, and tall woman, respectively. Our findings highlight the critical role of individualized M/FE models to assess mechanical loading in different individuals performing the same physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Fractures, Stress / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Tibia / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*
  • Young Adult