The contribution of muscle contraction to the loading capacity of the lower leg was studied in young and adult rats.
The lower legs of the rats were fractured in a three-point cantilever bending test during electrically induced muscle contraction. The contralateral tibiae were tested after dissection and served as controls. The ultimate bending moment increased by 73% and 84% in young and adult rats, respectively, during muscle contraction whereas the ultimate energy absorption increased by 149% and 302%.
This experimental fracture is similar to the boot top fracture in skiers. Since the ultimate increase in energy absorption during muscle contraction was half as large in young as it was in adult rats, children correspondingly may have less capacity to absorb energy in the lower leg compared with adults during muscle contraction. This may offer an additional explanation as to why children experience incidence of tibial fractures six to nine times greater than adults during alpine skiing.
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