Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 543–557 | Cite as

Modeling the effect of collagen fibril alignment on ligament mechanical behavior

  • Christina J. Stender
  • Evan Rust
  • Peter T. Martin
  • Erica E. Neumann
  • Raquel J. Brown
  • Trevor J. LujanEmail author
Original Paper


Ligament mechanical behavior is primarily regulated by fibrous networks of type I collagen. Although these fibrous networks are typically highly aligned, healthy and injured ligament can also exhibit disorganized collagen architecture. The objective of this study was to determine whether variations in the collagen fibril network between neighboring ligaments can predict observed differences in mechanical behavior. Ligament specimens from two regions of bovine fetlock joints, which either exhibited highly aligned or disorganized collagen fibril networks, were mechanically tested in uniaxial tension. Confocal microscopy and FiberFit software were used to quantify the collagen fibril dispersion and mean fibril orientation in the mechanically tested specimens. These two structural parameters served as inputs into an established hyperelastic constitutive model that accounts for a continuous distribution of planar fibril orientations. The ability of the model to predict differences in the mechanical behavior between neighboring ligaments was tested by (1) curve fitting the model parameters to the stress response of the ligament with highly aligned fibrils and then (2) using this model to predict the stress response of the ligament with disorganized fibrils by only changing the parameter values for fibril dispersion and mean fibril orientation. This study found that when using parameter values for fibril dispersion and mean fibril orientation based on confocal imaging data, the model strongly predicted the average stress response of ligaments with disorganized fibrils (\(R^{2}=0.97\)); however, the model only successfully predicted the individual stress response of ligaments with disorganized fibrils in half the specimens tested. Model predictions became worse when parameters for fibril dispersion and mean fibril orientation were not based on confocal imaging data. These findings emphasize the importance of collagen fibril alignment in ligament mechanics and help advance a mechanistic understanding of fibrillar networks in healthy and injured ligament.


Fiber distribution Constitutive model Confocal imaging Hyperelastic Tensile testing Transversely isotropic 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers P20GM109095 and P20GM103408. We also acknowledge support from the Biomolecular Research Center at Boise State with funding from the National Science Foundation, Grants No. 0619793 and 0923535; the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust; and the Idaho State Board of Education. Kind thanks to Dr. Hazel Screen, Phil Boysen, and Carly Frank.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P20GM109095 and P20GM103408).

Conflicts of interest:

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina J. Stender
    • 1
  • Evan Rust
    • 1
  • Peter T. Martin
    • 1
  • Erica E. Neumann
    • 1
  • Raquel J. Brown
    • 2
  • Trevor J. Lujan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Mechanical and Biomedical EngineeringBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA
  2. 2.Biomolecular Research CenterBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA

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