Publication: Assessment of the applicability of the Hertzian contact theory to edge-loaded prosthetic hip bearings.

Sanders, A. P. and R. M. Brannon (2011). “Assessment of the applicability of the Hertzian contact theory to edge-loaded prosthetic hip bearings.” Journal of Biomechanics 44(16): 2802-2808.


The components of prosthetic hip bearings may experience in-vivo subluxation and edge loading on the acetabular socket as a result of joint laxity, causing abnormally high, damaging contact stresses. In this research, edge-loaded contact of prosthetic hips is examined analytically and experimentally in the most commonly used categories of material pairs. In edge-loaded ceramic-on-ceramic hips, the Hertzian contact theory yields accurate (conservatively, <10% error) predictions of the contact dimensions. Moreover, the Hertzian theory successfully captures slope and curvature trends in the dependence of contact patch geometry on the applied load. In an edge-loaded ceramic-on-metal pair, a similar degree of accuracy is observed in the contact patch length; however, the contact width is less accurately predicted due to the onset of subsurface plasticity, which is predicted for loads >400N. The Hertzian contact theory is shown to be ill-suited to edge-loaded ceramic-on-polyethylene pairs due to polyethylene’s nonlinear material behavior. This work elucidates the methods and the accuracy of applying classical contact theory to edge-loaded hip bearings. The results help to define the applicability of the Hertzian theory to the design of new components and materials to better resist severe edge loading contact stresses.

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