Short Communication: Pennation Angle Variability in Human Muscle

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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  • 1 Pennsylvania State University
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The pennated arrangement of muscle fibers has important implications for muscle function in vivo, but complex arrangement of muscle fascicles in whole muscle raises the question whether the arrangement of fascicles produce variations in pennation angle throughout muscle. The purpose of this study was to describe the variability in pennation angle observed throughout the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Two cadaveric muscles were scanned in a 14.1 tesla MRI unit. Muscles were divided into slices and pennation angle was measured in the same representative location throughout the muscle in each slice for the medial-lateral and anterior posterior-image planes. Data showed large nonuniform variation in pennation angles throughout the muscles. For example, for cadaver 2, pennation angle in 287 planes along the medial-lateral axis ranged from 3.2° to 22.6°, while for the anterior-posterior axis, in 237 planes it ranged from 3.1° to 24.5°. The nonnormal distribution of pennation angles along each axis suggests a more complex distribution of fascicles than is assumed when a single pennation angle is used to represent an entire muscle. This distribution indicates that a single pennation angle may not accurately describe the arrangement of muscle fascicles in whole muscle.

Benjamin W. Infantolino and John H. Challis are with the Biomechanics Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. Benjamin W. Infantolino is also with the Division of Science, Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus, Reading, PA. Address author correspondence to Benjamin W. Infantolino at

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