Nonlinear, linear and failure properties of articular cartilage and meniscus in opposing contact surfaces are poorly known in tension. Relationships between the tensile properties of articular cartilage and meniscus in contact with each other within knee joints are also not known. In the present study, rectangular samples were prepared from the superficial lateral femoral condyle cartilage and lateral meniscus of bovine knee joints. Tensile tests were carried out with a loading rate of 5mm/min until the tissue rupture. Nonlinear properties of the toe region, linear properties in larger strains, and failure properties of both tissues were analysed. The strain-dependent tensile modulus of the toe region, Young's modulus of the linear region, ultimate tensile stress and toughness were on average 98.2, 8.3, 4.0 and 1.9 times greater (p<0.05) for meniscus than for articular cartilage. In contrast, the toe region strain, yield strain and failure strain were on average 9.4, 3.1 and 2.3 times greater (p<0.05) for cartilage than for meniscus. There was a significant negative correlation between the strain-dependent tensile moduli of meniscus and articular cartilage samples within the same joints (r=-0.690, p=0.014). In conclusion, the meniscus possesses higher nonlinear and linear elastic stiffness and energy absorption capability before rupture than contacting articular cartilage, while cartilage has longer nonlinear region and can withstand greater strains before failure. These findings point out different load carrying demands that both articular cartilage and meniscus have to fulfil during normal physiological loading activities of knee joints.
Determination of strain-, time- and site-specific properties of knee joint tissues.
Abnormal loading of the knee joint could be a result of injuries to the joint tissues like the menisci and ligaments. This subsequently leads to abnormal body weight distribution in the knee joint causing excessive forces in some regions of the joint likely leading to osteoarthritis. It is important to know the functions and relationships that exists between the mechanical properties of the tissues in the knee joint. This work seeks to experimentally characterize the tensile and rupture properties of menisci, cartilage, ligaments and cartilage to determine their strain-, time- and site-specific properties.