A Finite Element Model of the Foot/Ankle to Evaluate Injury Risk in Various Postures
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The foot/ankle complex is frequently injured in many types of debilitating events, such as car crashes. Numerical models used to assess injury risk are typically minimally validated and do not account for ankle posture variations that frequently occur during these events. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a finite element model of the foot and ankle accounting for these positional changes. A model was constructed from computed tomography scans of a male cadaveric lower leg and was evaluated by comparing simulated bone positions and strain responses to experimental results at five postures in which fractures are commonly reported. The bone positions showed agreement typically within 6° or less in all anatomical directions, and strain matching was consistent with the range of errors observed in similar studies (typically within 50% of the average strains). Fracture thresholds and locations in each posture were also estimated to be similar to those reported in the literature (ranging from 6.3 kN in the neutral posture to 3.9 kN in combined eversion and external rotation). The least vulnerable posture was neutral, and all other postures had lower fracture thresholds, indicating that examination of the fracture threshold of the lower limb in the neutral posture alone may be an underestimation. This work presents an important step forward in the modeling of lower limb injury risk in altered ankle postures. Potential clinical applications of the model include the development of postural guidelines to minimize injury, as well as the evaluation of new protective systems.
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