This paper reviews the progress that has been made in applying the principles of fracture mechanics to the topic of fracture of long bones. Prediction of loading conditions which result in the propagation of fractures in bones has been of interest to the field of trauma biomechanics and orthopedics for over one hundred years. Independent verifications, by various investigators, of bone fracture mechanics parameters are reviewed and investigations of the effects of bone density and specimen thickness on the critical fracture mechanics parameters and of other factors such as critical crack length and plastic zone size in bovine femoral bone, and the effects of crack velocity on fracture mechanics parameters in bovine tibial bone are discussed. It took over ten years for the techniques of bone fracture mechanics to be applied to human compact bone, due primarily to geometric constraints from the smaller size of human bones. That work will be reviewed along with other continuing work to define the orientation dependence of the fracture mechanics parameters in bone and to refine the experimental techniques needed to overcome the geometric constraints of specimen size. A discussion is included of work still needed to determine fracture mechanics parameters for transverse and longitudinal crack propagation in human bone and to establish the effects of age on those parameters. Finally, a discussion will be given of how this knowledge needs to be extended to allow prediction of whole bone fracture from external loading to aid in the design of protective systems.

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