The axial injury tolerance of the human foot/ankle complex and the effect of Achilles tension.
Axial loading of the foot/ankle complex is an important injury mechanism in vehicular trauma that is responsible for severe injuries such as calcaneal and tibial pilon fractures. Axial loading may be applied to the leg externally, by the toepan and/or pedals, as well as internally, by active muscle tension applied through the Achilles tendon during pre-impact bracing. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect of Achilles tension on fracture mode and to empirically model the axial loading tolerance of the foot/ankle complex. Blunt axial impact tests were performed on forty-three (43) isolated lower extremities with and without experimentally simulated Achilles tension. The primary fracture mode was calcaneal fracture in both groups. However, fracture initiated at the distal tibia more frequently with the addition of Achilles tension (p < 0.05). Acoustic sensors mounted to the bone demonstrated that fracture initiated at the time of peak local axial force. A survival analysis was performed on the injury data set using a Weibull regression model with specimen age, gender, body mass, and peak Achilles tension as predictor variables (R2 = 0.90). A closed-form survivor function was developed to predict the risk of fracture to the foot/ankle complex in terms of axial tibial force. The axial tibial force associated with a 50% risk of injury ranged from 3.7 kN for a 65 year-old 5th percentile female to 8.3 kN for a 45 year-old 50th percentile male, assuming no Achilles tension. The survivor function presented here may be used to estimate the risk of foot/ankle fracture that a blunt axial impact would pose to a human based on the peak tibial axial force measured by an anthropomorphic test device.
Funk, JR; Crandall, JR; Tourret, LJ; MacMahon, CB; Bass, CR; Patrie, JT; Khaewpong, N; Eppinger, RH
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