Impact testing to determine the mechanical properties of articular cartilage in isolation and on bone

Leanne V. Burgin, Richard M. Aspden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The biomechanical response of cartilage to impact loads, both in isolation and in situ on its bone substrate, has been little studied despite the common occurrence of osteoarthritis subsequent to cartilage injury. An instrumented drop tower was used to apply controlled impact loads of different energies to explants of bovine articular cartilage. Results were compared with a conventional slow stress-strain test. The effects of the underlying bone were investigated by progressively shortening a core of bone removed with the cartilage, and by gluing cartilage samples to substrates of different moduli. The maximum dynamic modulus of isolated samples of bovine articular cartilage, at strain rates between 1100 and 1500 s(-1), was approximately two orders of magnitude larger than the quasistatic modulus and varied non-linearly with applied stress. When attached to a substrate of higher modulus, increasing the thickness of the substrate increased the effective modulus of the combination until a steady value was achieved. A lower modulus substrate reduced the effective modulus of the combination. Severe impacts resulted in damage to the bone rather than to the cartilage. The modulus of cartilage rises rapidly and non-linearly with strain rate, giving the tissue a remarkable ability to withstand impact loads. The presence of cartilage attenuated the peak force experienced by the bone and spread the impact loading period over a longer time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-711
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jul 2007
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

The original publication is available at


  • unconfined compression
  • tissue inhibitor
  • femoral-head
  • blunt impact
  • joint fluid
  • osteoarthritis
  • modulus
  • damage
  • model
  • load


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