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Vet J. 2005 Sep;170(2):184-92.

Mechanical and functional properties of the equine superficial digital flexor tendon.

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  • 1University Veterinary Centre Camden, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Werombi Road, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia.


The in vitro and in vivo mechanical properties of the superficial digital flexor tendon have been described. To date the focus has been on single load to failure testing, however refined in vivo methods may prove useful to evaluate the effects of treatment and exercise on tendons. During maximal exercise, the adult superficial digital flexor tendon operates close to its functional limits with a narrow biomechanical safety margin. This combined with exercise and age associated microdamage, and a limited adaptive ability may increase the risk of fatigue failure. Studies evaluating treatment regimens for tendonitis have focused on repair and regeneration and yielded varying results. It would appear that the superficial digital flexor tendon has a limited ability if any to adapt positively to exercise after maturity. In contrast, the foal's superficial digital flexor tendon may have a greater adaptive ability and may respond to an appropriate exercise regimen to produce a more functionally adapted tendon. Recent studies have shown that foals allowed free pasture exercise develop a larger, stronger, more elastic tendon compared to foals that were confined or subjected to a training program. Effects on the non-collagenous matrix appear to be responsible for these differences. In contrast, training or excess exercise may have permanent detrimental effects on the biomechanical and functional properties of the superficial digital flexor tendon in the foal. The implication is that the determination of optimum exercise intensity and timing, and the role of the non-collagenous matrix in tendon physiology in the young horse may hold the key to developing tendons more capable of resisting injury.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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