Are current measurements of lower extremity muscle architecture accurate?

Samuel R. Ward, Carolyn M. Eng, Laura H. Smallwood, Richard L. Lieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

496 Scopus citations


Skeletal muscle architecture is defined as the arrangement of fibers in a muscle and functionally defines performance capacity. Architectural values are used to model muscle-joint behavior and to make surgical decisions. The two most extensively used human lower extremity data sets consist of five total specimens of unknown size, gender, and age. Therefore, it is critically important to generate a high-fidelity human lower extremity muscle architecture data set. We disassembled 27 muscles from 21 human lower extremities to characterize muscle fiber length and physiologic cross-sectional area, which define the excursion and force-generating capacities of a muscle. Based on their architectural features, the soleus, gluteus medius, and vastus lateralis are the strongest muscles, whereas the sartorius, gracilis, and semitendinosus have the largest excursion. The plantarflexors, knee extensors, and hip adductors are the strongest muscle groups acting at each joint, whereas the hip adductors and hip extensors have the largest excursion. Contrary to previous assertions, two-joint muscles do not necessarily have longer fibers than single-joint muscles as seen by the similarity of knee flexor and extensor fiber lengths. These high-resolution data will facilitate the development of more accurate musculoskeletal models and challenge existing theories of muscle design; we believe they will aid in surgical decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1074-1082
Number of pages9
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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