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Maintenance of healthy bone mineral density (BMD) is important for preventing fractures in older adults. Strains experienced by bone in vivo stimulate remodeling processes, which can increase or decrease BMD. However, there has been little study of age differences in bone strains. This study examined the relative contributions of age-related differences in femoral loading and BMD to age-related differences in femoral strains during walking using gait analysis, static optimization, and finite element modeling. Strains in older adult models were similar or larger than in young adult models. Reduced BMD increased strains in a fairly uniform manner, whereas older adult loading increased strains in early stance but decreased strains in late stance. Peak ground reaction forces, hip joint contact forces, and hip flexor forces were lower in older adults in late stance phase, and this helped older adults maintain strains similar to those of young adults despite lower BMD. Because walking likely represents a “baseline” level of stimulus for bone remodeling processes, increased strains during walking in older adults might indicate the extent of age-related impairment in bone remodeling processes. Such a measure might be clinically useful if it could be accurately determined with age-appropriate patient-specific loading, geometry, and BMD.
Dennis E. Anderson (Corresponding Author) is with the Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, and with the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Michael L. Madigan is with the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA.