Immature sheep spines are more flexible than mature spines: An in vitro biomechanical study

Elizabeth C. Clarke, Richard C. Appleyard, Lynne E. Bilston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


STUDY DESIGN. Dynamic triaxial biomechanical testing of immature and mature ovine spine motion segments. OBJECTIVE. To compare torque-deflection parameters of mature and immature spine motion segments and to investigate whether scaling relationships apply between mature and immature motion segment torque-deflection responses. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA. While previous studies have examined the cervical region in a limited number of loading directions, a comprehensive multiaxial study of the response of the pediatric spine at all 3 spinal levels (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar) has not been performed. METHODS. Motion segments from cervical, thoracic, and lumbar levels were tested under moment application about 3 axes for newborn and 2-year-old sheep. Range of motion, neutral zone, and stiffness were calculated for each motion segment and compared for immature and mature spine. RESULTS. Immature spine motion segments exhibited a significantly larger range of motion (P < 0.001) and neutral zone (P < 0.001) and significantly lower stiffness (P < 0.001) in comparison to mature spine segments about the 3 moment axes, at the 3 spinal levels tested. There were statistically significant interactions between specimen age and the moment axis and/or spinal level for some torque-deflection parameters. CONCLUSION. The significantly greater neutral zone of immature spine suggests greater ligament laxity. Significantly higher range of motion and lower stiffness of the immature spine may be implicated in spinal cord injury mechanisms and implies a change in relative tolerance of the spine to damage with spinal maturity. Significant statistical interactions between spinal maturity and moment axis or motion segment level suggest that scaling torque-deflection parameters from mature to immature spine may not be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2970-2979
Number of pages10
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Motion segment
  • Neutral zone
  • Pediatric
  • Range of motion
  • Stiffness


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