The relative position of the human fibula to the tibia influences cross-sectional properties of the tibia

Benjamin M. Auerbach, Alice F. Gooding, Colin N. Shaw, Adam D. Sylvester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: The fibula transmits loads within the lower limb of hominids. The few studies of variation in the cross-sectional geometric (CSG) properties of the fibula have established differences in its rigidity among groups engaged in distinct habitual loading activities. This study adds to this research by considering the relationship between CSG properties and the anatomical position of the fibula relative to the tibia among groups with differences in documented activity patterns. Material and methods: We used pQCT scans taken at 50% of the length of the lower leg in 83 healthy young adult collegiate-aged individuals divided into five activity groups: runners, swimmers, cricketers, field hockey players, and non-athletes. We compared variation in calculated CSG properties against the distance between fibular and tibial centroids, as well as the angle of that plane relative to the plane of tibial Imax. Results: Tibial and fibular CSG properties vary with respect to the relative position of the two bones. Tibial CSG properties differ in concert with the relative angle of the fibula to tibial Imax, while fibular CSG properties differ with the distance between the elements. Fibulae are more posterior-medially positioned in groups engaged in terrestrial athletics than among swimmers. Discussion: The tibia and fibula experience different loads. The relative position of the two bones leads to compensatory differences in their CSG properties, perhaps due to increased resistance to bending in fibulae with greater distances from the tibia. Examinations of tibial CSG properties without considering the fibula limits interpretations about activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-157
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2017


  • bending rigidity
  • circular data
  • cross-sectional geometry
  • habitual activity
  • locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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