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23 Nov 2019

Materials fracture when the force per unit area, called STRESS,exceeds a critical value. In general, the critical stress dependson the direction as well as the magnitude of the force. Forexample, bones break differently when subjected to torsional(twisting) stress than when subjected to compressional (orsqueezing) stress. Let us consider compressional stress. Wet humanbone for 20-39 year olds has an ultimate compressive strength of ~16x104Ncm2 [8]. Consider a person who falls from a height to theground. Upon landing, the person's kinetic energy is converted towork. If the person decelerates over a distance h, we can estimatethe average force during the collision by

If a person lands stiff-legged on a hard surface and doesn'tbounce, the deceleration occurs over a very short distance, h ~ 1cm. Since the force is transmitted up the leg, the stress isgreatest where the cross-sectional area is least, i.e., the tibiajust above the ankle [8].
The following lists some different conditions that may occur duringlanding and physical explanations for why they make bone fracturefrom a fall more or less likely [8]:

(a) bounce [more likely. The impulse is twice as large for anelastic collision as for an inelastic collision.]
(b) bent knees [less likely. Bending the knees increases the timeand distance over which deceleration occurs, which reduces theforce.]
(c) landing in loose earth or sand [less likely. This increases hwhich reduces F.]
(d) turning the body to land on the side [less likely. Thisincreases h. It also distributes the force widely over the body(increases A), thereby reducing the stress.]

So, why can a properly executed karate kick break a concrete blockwithout fracturing bones [16]? First, bone is a very strongmaterial. Its ultimate compressive strength is approximately 40times larger than concrete. Second, contact is made with the edgeof the foot. This concentrates the force into a small area of thetarget and reduces the likelihood of bending a bone to the point offracture. Third, the collision with the target is essentiallyinelastic and extends over several milliseconds, so the peak force,though large, does not exceed the strength of the bone. If A(cross-sectional area of the tibia) ~ 3.3 cm2, compute how far a 69kg person can fall and land stiff-legged on both legs withoutbreaking a bone. Assume F is split evenly between two legs. (Hint:F<or =2(theta)A )

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