Because many osteoporotic fractures occur during a fall, understanding the effect of off-axis loads on initiation and propagation of microdamage in trabecular bone should provide further insight into the biomechanics of age-related fractures. Fourteen on-axis cylindrical specimens were prepared from 12 bovine tibiae. Fluorescent stains were used to label the microdamage due to a sequence of compressive and torsional damaging loads. The mean decrease in Young’s modulus was over four times greater than that in the shear modulus after the compressive overload, while there was no difference between the decrease in the axial and torsional stiffnesses after the torsional overload. The total microcrack density due to compression was uniform across the radius of the cylindrical specimens, while the mean density of microcracks due to torsional overloading increased from the axis of the cylindrical specimen to the circumference. The high density of microcracks near the axis of the specimen following torsional overloading was unexpected because of the low strains. Nearly 40% of the microcracks due to torsion propagated from pre-existing microcracks caused by axial compression, indicating that existing microcracks may extend at relatively low strain if the loading mode changes. The propagating microcracks were, on average, longer than the initiating microcracks due to either compressive or torsional loading. Damage due to axial compression appears to increase the susceptibility of trabecular bone to damage propagation during subsequent torsional loads, but it has little effect on the elastic properties in shear.
Keywords: Microcracks; cancellous bone; propagation; compression; torsion