Stress fractures are a common overuse injury among runners associated with the mechanical fatigue of bone. Several in vivo biomechanical studies have investigated specific characteristics of the vertical ground reaction force (vGRF) in heel-toe running and have observed an association between increased loading rate during impact and individuals with a history of stress fracture. The purpose of this study was to examine the fatigue behavior of cortical bone using vGRF-like loading profiles, including those that had been decomposed into their respective impact and active phase components. Thirty-eight cylindrical cortical bone samples were extracted from bovine tibiae and femora. Hydrated samples were fatigue tested at room temperature in zero compression under load control using either a raw (n = 10), active (n = 10), low impact (n = 10), or high impact (n = 8) vGRF profile. The number of cycles to failure was quantified and the test was terminated if the sample survived 105 cycles. Fatigue life was significantly greater for both impact groups compared to the active (p < 0.001) and raw (p < 0.001) groups, with all low impact samples and 6 of 8 high impact samples surviving 105 cycles. The mean (± SD) number of cycles to failure for the active and raw groups was 12,133±11,704 and 16,552±29,612, respectively. The results suggest that loading rates associated with the impact phase of a typical vGRF in running have little influence on the mechanical fatigue behavior of bone relative to loading magnitude, warranting further investigation of the mechanism by which increased loading rates are associated with stress fracture.

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