Although the contributions of passive structures to stability of the elbow have been well documented, the role of active muscular resistance of varus and valgus loads at the elbow remains unclear. We hypothesized that muscles: (1) can produce substantial varus and valgus moments about the elbow, and (2) are activated in response to sustained varus and valgus loading of the elbow. To test the first hypothesis, we developed a detailed musculoskeletal model to estimate the varus and valgus moment-generating capacity of the muscles about the elbow. To test the second hypothesis, we measured EMGs from 11 muscles in four subjects during a series of isometric tasks that included flexion, extension, varus, and valgus moments about the elbow. The EMG recordings were used as inputs to the elbow model to estimate the contributions of individual muscles to flexion-extension and varus-valgus moments. Analysis of the model revealed that nearly all of the muscles that cross the elbow are capable of producing varus or valgus moments; the capacity of the muscles to produce varus moment (34 Nm) and valgus moment (35 Nm) is roughly half of the maximum flexion moment (70 Nm). Analysis of the measured EMGs showed that the anconeus was the most significant contributor to valgus moments and the pronator teres was the largest contributor to varus moments. Although our results show that muscles were activated in response to static varus and valgus loads, their activations were modest and were not sufficient to balance the applied load.

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