The effect of the extensor mechanism on maximum isometric fingertip forces: A numerical study on the index finger

A. Synek*, D. H. Pahr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

11 Citations (Scopus)


The extensor mechanism is a tendinous network connecting intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the finger and its function has not yet been fully understood. The goal of this study was to assess the effect of the extensor mechanism on the maximum isometric fingertip forces – a parameter which is essential for grasping. For this purpose, maximum fingertip forces in all directions (i.e. feasible force sets) of two musculoskeletal models of the index finger were compared: the wEM model included a full representation of the extensor mechanism, whereas in the noEM model the extensor mechanism was replaced by a single extensor tendon without connectivity to intrinsic muscles. The feasible force sets were computed in the flexion-extension plane for nine postures. Forces in four predefined directions (palmar, proximal, dorsal, and distal), and the peak resultant forces were evaluated. Averaged forces in all four predefined directions were considerably larger in the wEM model (+187.6%). However, peak resultant forces were slightly lower in the wEM model (−4.3% on average). The general advantage of the wEM model could be explained by co-contraction of intrinsic and extrinsic extensor muscles which allowed reaching larger activation levels of the extrinsic flexors. Only within a narrow range of force directions the co-contraction of intrinsic muscles limited the fingertip forces and lead to lower peak resultant forces in the wEM model. Rather than maximizing peak resultant forces, it appears that the extensor mechanism is a sophisticated tool for increasing maximum fingertip forces over a broad range of postures and force directions – making the finger more versatile during grasping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3423-3429
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 03 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Extensor mechanism
  • Finger
  • Fingertip force
  • Grip force
  • Musculoskeletal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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