Bridging the gap between cadaveric and in vivo experiments: A biomechanical model evaluating thumb-tip endpoint forces

Sarah J. Wohlman, Wendy M. Murray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The thumb is required for a majority of tasks of daily living. Biomechanical modeling is a valuable tool, with the potential to help us bridge the gap between our understanding of the mechanical actions of individual thumb muscles, derived from anatomical cadaveric experiments, and our understanding of how force is produced by the coordination of all of the thumb muscles, derived from studies involving human subjects. However, current biomechanical models do not replicate muscle force production at the thumb-tip. We hypothesized that accurate representations of the axes of rotation of the thumb joints were necessary to simulate the magnitude of endpoint forces produced by human subjects. We augmented a musculoskeletal model with axes of rotation derived from experimental measurements (Holzbaur et al., 2005) by defining muscle-tendon paths and maximum isometric force-generating capacity for the five intrinsic muscles. We then evaluated if this augmented model replicated a broad range of experimental data from the literature and identified which parameters most influenced model performance. The simulated endpoint forces generated by the combined action of all thumb muscles in our model yielded comparable forces in magnitude to those produced by nonimpaired subjects. A series of 8 sets of Monte Carlo simulations demonstrated that the difference in the axes of rotation of the thumb joints between studies best explains the improved performance of our model relative to previous work. In addition, we demonstrate that the endpoint forces produced by individual muscles cannot be replicated with existing experimental data describing muscle moment arms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1014-1020
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 15 2013


  • Biological models
  • Computer simulation
  • Muscles
  • Thumb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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