Open Access Open Badges Research article

Viscoelastic properties of bovine knee joint articular cartilage: dependency on thickness and loading frequency

Daniel M Espino*, Duncan ET Shepherd and David WL Hukins

Author Affiliations

School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:205  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-205

Published: 14 June 2014



The knee is an incongruent joint predisposed to developing osteoarthritis, with certain regions being more at risk of cartilage degeneration even in non-osteoarthrosed joints.

At present it is unknown if knee regions prone to cartilage degeneration have similar storage and/or loss stiffness, and frequency-dependent trends, to other knee joint cartilage. The aim of this study was to determine the range of frequency-dependent, viscoelastic stiffness of articular cartilage across the bovine knee joint. Such changes were determined at frequencies associated with normal and rapid heel-strike rise times.


Cartilage on bone, obtained from bovine knee joints, was tested using dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA). DMA was performed at a range of frequencies between 1 and 88 Hz (i.e. relevant to normal and rapid heel-strike rise times). Viscoelastic stiffness of cartilage from the tibial plateau, femoral condyles and patellar groove were compared.


For all samples the storage stiffness increased, but the loss stiffness remained constant, with frequency. They were also dependent on cartilage thickness. Both the loss stiffness and the storage stiffness decreased with cartilage thickness. Femoral condyles had the thinnest cartilage but had the highest storage and loss stiffness. Tibial plateau cartilage not covered by the meniscus had the thickest cartilage and lowest storage and loss stiffness.


Differences in regional thickness of knee joint cartilage correspond to altered frequency-dependent, viscoelastic stiffness.

Articular cartilage; Dynamic mechanical analysis; Stiffness; Thickness; Viscoelasticity