Trauma-associated cartilage fractures occur in children and adolescents with clinically significant incidence. Several studies investigated biomechanical injury by compressive forces but the injury-related stress has not been investigated extensively. In this study, we hypothesized that the biomechanical stress occurring during compressive injury predetermines the biomechanical, biochemical, and structural consequences. We specifically investigated whether the stress-vs-time signal correlated with the injurious damage and may allow prediction of cartilage matrix fracturing.
Superficial and deeper zones disks (SZDs, DZDs; immature bovine cartilage) were biomechanically characterized, injured (50% compression, 100%/sec strain-rate), and re-characterized. Correlations of the quantified functional, biochemical and histological damage with biomechanical parameters were zonally investigated.
Injured SZDs exhibited decreased dynamic stiffness (by 93.04 ± 1.72%), unresolvable equilibrium moduli, structural damage (2.0 ± 0.5 on a 5-point-damage-scale), and 1.78-fold increased sGAG loss. DZDs remained intact. Measured stress-vs-time-curves during injury displayed 4 distinct shapes, which correlated with histological damage (p<0.001), loss of dynamic stiffness and sGAG (p<0.05). Damage prediction in a blinded experiment using stress-vs-time grades was 100%-correct and sensitive to differentiate single/complex matrix disruptions. Correlations of the dissipated energy and maximum stress rise with the extent of biomechanical and biochemical damage reached significance when SZDs and DZDs were analyzed as zonal composites but not separately.
The biomechanical stress that occurs during compressive injury predetermines the biomechanical, biochemical, and structural consequences and, thus, the structural and functional damage during cartilage fracturing. A novel biomechanical method based on the interpretation of compressive yielding allows the accurate prediction of the extent of structural damage.