The incidence of fractures increases with age. This is partly due to extraosseous factors and partly to the increased fragility of the bone material itself. Ageing adversely affects the “quality” of human bone material, its elastic and ultimate properties. The hypothesis here is that these effects are caused by factors such as architectural changes, compositional changes, physicochemical changes, changes at the micromechanical level, and the degree of prior in vivo microdamage. Examination of the extent of the secondary osteonal area, the porosity level, the calcium content, the mineral/wet weight fraction, the dry density, the condition of the collagen and its content in mature x-links, the elasticity of osteonal and interstitial lamellae at the microscopic level and the numericaland surface-density of the in vivo fatigue microcracks has been undertaken. The findings show that some factors simply affect the stiffness and the strength of bone, while others soley affect its toughness. We discuss the implications of these findings in the context of the composite nature of the ageing bone material matrix.
Keywords: biomechanics; bone; ageing; collagen; toughness composites