A biomechanical study has been carried out on 20 cadaveric knees to investigate their load-absorbing mechanism. The impact load was applied using a weight falling onto the transected proximal femur and the force transmitted through the knee was measured at the transected distal tibia using a load transducer. The peak force transmitted increased as, sequentially, meniscus, articular cartilage and subchondral bone were damaged or removed. The most striking result was found in an implanted knee replacement where the transmitted force reached 180% of that in the intact knee. The results show that the joint has an impact-absorbing property in each segment and that in the osteoarthritic knee there is less absorption of shock than in the normal knee. The high impact force in an implanted knee suggests that microfractures of the cancellous bone might be expected and may produce loosening.