Calculation of the stresses exerted by human muscles requires knowledge of their physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has made it possible to measure PCSAs of leg muscles of healthy human subjects, which are much larger than the PCSAs of cadaveric leg muscles that have been used in previous studies. We have used published MRI data, together with our own force-plate records and films of running and jumping humans, to calculate stresses in the major groups of leg muscles. Peak stresses in the triceps surae ranged from 100 kN m-2 during take off for standing high jumps to 150 kN m-2 during running at 4 m s-1. In the quadriceps, peak stresses ranged from 190 kN m-2 during standing long jumps to 280 kN m-2 during standing high jumps. Similar stresses were calculated from published measurements of joint moments. These stresses are lower than those previously calculated from cadaveric data, but are in the range expected from physiological experiments on isolated muscles.

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