Susan Basile, Xiaopeng Zhao
Background: Overuse injuries in children and adolescents are becoming increasingly common, particularly in those who regularly participate in a single sport. As a result, prevention, early detection and treatment of these injuries is vital. However, existing research in adult populations cannot always be directly applied to analogous cases in younger populations. This study attempts to provide an example of how both mathematical and computer modeling can be utilized to predict alterations in load locations, directions, and magnitudes resulting from maturational changes in a way not possible in vivo. Methods: A 2D leg extension model was created and used to calculate relevant forces at the proximal knee joint. Individual aspects of the model, such as quadriceps force and leg length, were changed to quantify how increases in a growing adolescent’s force generation and limb length may affect the forces at the joint. The derived forces were input into a 3D finite element model incorporating a growing young adult’s relatively weaker epiphyseal plate material to calculate the stresses and strains on the tibia of an adolescent. Results: Findings indicated that a shortened patellar tendon and increased quadriceps muscle strength were potentially greater contributors to increased stress on the proximal tibia, as opposed to aspects such as height and weight changes. Conclusions: The theoretical and computational methods employed show promise in their ability to predict potential injury risks in populations for whom evidence-based research is lacking. Models incorporating the elbow and shoulder have high impact potential for young baseball pitchers.