Predicting Long Bone Loading from Cross-Sectional Geometry

Daniel E. Lieberman, John D. Polk, Brigitte Demes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long bone loading histories are commonly evaluated using a beam model by calculating cross-sectional second moments of areas (SMAs). Without in vivo strain data, SMA analyses commonly make two explicit or implicit assumptions. First, while it has long been known that axial compression superimposed on bending shifts neutral axes away from cross-sectional area centroids, most analyses assume that cross-sectional properties calculated through the area centroid approximate cross-sectional strength. Second, the orientation of maximum bending rigidity is often assumed to reflect the orientation of peak or habitual bending forces the bone experiences. These assumptions are tested in sheep in which rosette strain gauges mounted at three locations around the tibia and metatarsal midshafts measured in vivo strains during treadmill running at 1.5 m/sec. Calculated normal strain distributions confirm that the neutral axis of bending does not run through the midshaft centroid. In these animals, orientations of the principal centroidal axes around which maximum SMAs (Imax) are calculated are not in the same planes in which the bones experienced bending. Cross-sectional properties calculated using centroidal axes have substantial differences in magnitude (up to 55%) but high correlations in pattern compared to cross-sectional properties calculated around experimentally determined neutral axes. Thus interindividual comparisons of cross-sectional properties calculated from centroidal axes may be useful in terms of pattern, but are subject to high errors in terms of absolute values. In addition, cross-sectional properties do not necessarily provide reliable data on the orientations of loads to which bones are subjected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-171
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-sectional geometry
  • Functional morphology
  • In vivo strain
  • Second moment of area
  • Sheep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Predicting Long Bone Loading from Cross-Sectional Geometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this