Low-energy impact of human cartilage: predictors for microcracking the network of collagen

Bilal Kaleem, Franz Maier, Hicham Drissi, David Michael Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Objective We aimed to determine the minimum mechanical impact to cause microstructural damage in the network of collagen (microcracking) within human cartilage and hypothesized that energies below 0.1 J or 1 mJ/mm 3 would suffice. Design We completed 108 low-energy impact tests (0.05, 0.07, or 0.09 J; 0.75 or 1.0 m/s 2) using healthy cartilage specimens from six male donors (30.2 ± 8.8 yrs old). Before and after impact we acquired, imaging the second harmonic generation (SHG), ten images from each specimen (50 μm depth, 5 μm step size), resulting in 2160 images. We quantified both the presence and morphology of microcracks. We then correlated test parameters (predictors) impact energy/energy dissipation density, nominal stress/stress rate, and strain/strain rate to microcracking and tested for significance. Where predictors significantly correlated with microstructural outcomes we fitted binary logistic regression plots with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Results No specimens presented visible damage following impact. We found that impact energy/energy dissipation density and nominal stress/stress rate were significant (P < 0.05) predictors of microcracking while both strain and strain rate were not. In our test configuration, an impact energy density of 2.93 mJ/mm 3, an energy dissipation density of 1.68 mJ/mm 3, a nominal stress of 4.18 MPa, and a nominal stress rate of 689 MPa/s all corresponded to a 50% probability of microcracking in the network of collagen. Conclusions An impact energy density of 1.0 mJ/mm 3 corresponded to a ∼20% probability of microcracking. Such changes may initiate a degenerative cascade leading to post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-553
Number of pages10
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Bone
  • Energy dissipation
  • Human articular cartilage
  • Impact energy
  • Mechanical injuries
  • Stress


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