Osteoarthritis (OA) affects millions of people and results in weakened hyaline cartilage due to overloading. During joint articulation, hyaline cartilage must withstand high loads while maintaining low friction to prevent wear and tissue loss. Thus, cartilage compressive stiffness and the coefficient of friction are important indicators of the tissue's functional performance. These mechanical properties are often measured ex vivo using mechanical testing regimens, but arthroscopic handheld probes (e.g., for indentation testing, ultrasound, and optical coherence tomography) and noninvasive imaging modalities (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography) provide opportunities for either direct or indirect in vivo assessment of cartilage mechanical properties. In this review, we examine the application of these techniques for evaluating cartilage, with a focus on measuring mechanical properties for early-stage OA diagnosis. For each approach, we discuss the advantages, disadvantages, current and potential clinical utility, and promising technological improvement.


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