Intra-articular load distribution in the human ankle joint during motion

James D. Michelson, Mark Checcone, Tanya Kuhn, Kevin Varner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The rational treatment of injuries to the ankle is predicated on an understanding of biomechanics of the ankle. While several investigators have reported on three dimensional dynamic kinematics of the ankle and on the static distribution of pressure within the ankle, it has not been possible to measure intra-articular forces reliably under dynamic conditions. The assumption that the distribution of forces under dynamic conditions is well represented by statically determined forces has not been validated, leaving in question the applicability to dynamic conditions of data obtained under static conditions. This study characterizes an electro-mechanical thin-membrane force transducer with potential for intra-articular use. The sensor was found to yield a reproducible linear response to loads experienced in the ankle, and was insensitive to both a moist environment and shearing forces. On the basis of these results, these force-transducers were placed in axially loaded cadaveric ankles that were either statically or dynamically cycled through a physiologic range of motion. In each of six specimens, sensors were secured to the medial and lateral malleolar articular surfaces, and to articular surfaces of the medial and lateral tibial plafond. Both medial and lateral malleolar-talar forces increased with dorsiflexion. Moving from plantarflexion to dorsiflexion caused an increase in lateral tibio-talar load accompanied by a decrease in the medial tibio-talar loading. There was no significant hysteresis in force-distribution with respect to the direction of sagittal motion. There was no difference between the forces measured under static or dynamic conditions. This study validates the use of static loading methodologies in future studies of force-distribution. Our data in intact ankles closely corresponded to data on forces under dynamic conditions. Dorsiflexion caused an increase in both medially and laterally directed forces towards the malleoli. This is the first demonstration of such forces, which are responsible for the external rotation and lateral translation of the distal fibula that occurs in dorsiflexion of the ankle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-233
Number of pages8
JournalFoot and Ankle International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Intra-articular load distribution in the human ankle joint during motion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this