Chimpanzees are knuckle-walkers, with forelimbs contacting the ground by the dorsum of the finger's middle phalanges. As these muscular apes are given to high velocity motions, the question arises how the ground reaction forces are buffered so that no damage ensues in the load bearing fingers. In literature, it was hypothesized that the finger flexors help buffer impacts because in knuckle stance the metacarpophalangeal joints (MCPJ) are strongly hyperextended, which would elongate the finger flexors. This stretching of the finger flexor muscle-tendon units would absorb impact energy. However, EMG studies did not report significant finger flexor activity in knuckle walking. While these data by themselves question the finger flexor impact buffering hypothesis, the present study aimed to critically investigate the hypothesis from a biomechanical point of view. Therefore, various aspects of knuckle walking were modeled and the finger flexor tendon displacements in the load bearing fingers were measured in a chimpanzee cadaver hand, of which also an MRI was taken in knuckle stance. The biomechanics do not support the finger flexor impact buffering hypothesis. In knuckle walking, the finger flexors are not elongated to lengths where passive strain forces would become important. Impact buffering by large flexion moments at the MCP joints from active finger flexors would result in impacts at the knuckles themselves, which is dysfunctional for various biomechanical reasons and does not occur in real knuckle walking. In conclusion, the current biomechanical analysis in accumulation of previous EMG findings suggests finger flexors play no role in impact buffering in knuckle walking.

This content is only available via PDF.

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this content.