Estimation of joint contact pressure in the index finger using a hybrid finite element musculoskeletal approach

  • Faudot Barthélémy
  • Milan Jean-Louis
  • Goislard de Monsabert Benjamin
  • Le Corroller Thomas
  • Vigouroux Laurent


The knowledge of local stress distribution in hand joints is crucial to understand injuries and osteoarthritis occurrence. However, determining cartilage contact stresses remains a challenge, requiring numerical models including both accurate anatomical components and realistic tendon force actuation. Contact forces in finger joints have frequently been calculated but little data is available on joint contact pressures. This study aimed to develop and assess a hybrid biomechanical model of the index finger to estimate in-vivo joint contact pressure during a static maximal strength pinch grip task. A finite element model including bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments was developed, with tendon force transmission based on a tendon-pulley system. This model was driven by realistic tendon forces estimated from a musculoskeletal model and motion capture data for six subjects. The hybrid model outputs agreed well with the experimental measurement of fingertip forces and literature data on the physiological distribution of tendon forces through the index finger. Mean contact pressures were 6.9 ± 2.7MPa, 6.2 ± 1.0 MPa and 7.2 ± 1.3MPa for distal, proximal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints, respectively. Two subjects had higher mean contact pressure in the distal joint than in the other two joints, suggesting a mechanical cause for the prevalence of osteoarthritis in the index distal joint. The inter-subject variability in joint contact pressure could be explained by different neuromuscular strategies employed for the task. This first application of an effective hybrid model to the index finger is promising for estimating hand joint stresses under daily grip tasks and simulating surgical procedures.