The nonequilibrium or kinetic swelling behavior of normal, fibrillated, and osteoarthritic (OA) (removed from total knee joint replacements) human knee joint cartilage has been measured using our isometric tensile apparatus (ITA). We found that large local variation exist in the manner with which human knee joint cartilage swells, including anisotropic effects, inhomogeneities, and dependence on local biochemical composition and pathological condition. The ITA provides three convenient biomechanical parameters—peak stress (s̀P), stress relaxation (s̀R), and diffusion coefficient (D)—to quantify the kinetics of swelling. We used these parameters to quantify and differentiate the kinetic swelling behavior of normal, fibrillated, and osteoarthritic cartilage, as well as the swelling behavior of cartilage from high and low weight-bearing areas. Also, these kinetic swelling parameters correlated very well, though by varying degrees, with such biochemical measures as collagen/proteoglycan ratio, hexosamine content/wet weight, and hydroxyproline content/dry weight, providing important insight into the mechanisms and processes involved during the course of swelling. Hence, the kinetic swelling behavior of cartilage should be used to provide important information not obtainable from equilibrium swelling studies.