Viscoelastic behavior and structural properties of the coracoclavicular ligaments


Corresponding author: Richard E. Debski, PhD, Musculoskeletal Research Center, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, PO Box 71199, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. Tel: 412-648-1638, Fax: 412-648-2001, E-mail:


During contact sports such as football, hockey or rugby, the coracoclavicular ligaments are commonly ruptured. Currently, the limited biomechanical data on the properties and function of these ligaments have led to debate on the “gold standard” treatment for these injuries. Therefore, the objective of this study was to characterize the geometry, viscoelastic behavior and structural properties of the coracoclavicular ligaments (n=11). The trapezoid and conoid were found to have similar length (9.6±4.4 vs. 11.2±4.1 mm) and cross-sectional area (103±43 vs. 69±51 mm2), respectively (P>0.05). Static and cyclic stress relaxation tests were then performed, followed by uniaxial tensile testing with the insertions of each ligament aligned to ensure a uniform distribution of load across the fibers. No significant differences were observed for the trapezoid and conoid during the static (36±8% vs. 31±7%) and cyclic (23±12% vs. 16±6%) stress relaxation tests, respectively (P>0.05). Similarly, no statistically significant differences were found between the trapezoid and conoid for linear stiffness (83±40 vs. 70±23 N mm−1), ultimate load (312±133 vs. 266± 108 N), energy absorbed at failure (820±576 vs. 752± 410 N mm), percent elongation (74±47% vs. 62±22%) and elongation at failure (5.8±2.2 vs. 6.1±1.6 mm), respectively (P>0.05). A comparison of our data to previous studies suggests that the complex fiber orientation of these ligaments has a significant role in determining the maximum load that can be transferred between the clavicle and scapula by each bone–ligament–bone complex. Our findings also further confirm the functional role of the coracoclavicular ligaments in supporting the upper extremity, and provide data for reconstruction and rehabilitation protocols as well as computational models.