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Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 2014 Jan;228(1):49-59. doi: 10.1177/0954411913509977. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

Functionally distinct tendon fascicles exhibit different creep and stress relaxation behaviour.

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Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK.


Most overuse tendinopathies are thought to be associated with repeated microstrain below the failure threshold, analogous to the fatigue failure that affects materials placed under repetitive loading. Investigating the progression of fatigue damage within tendons is therefore of critical importance. There are obvious challenges associated with the sourcing of human tendon samples for in vitro analysis so animal models are regularly adopted. However, data indicates that fatigue life varies significantly between tendons of different species and with different stresses in life. Positional tendons such as rat tail tendon or the bovine digital extensor are commonly applied in in vitro studies of tendon overuse, but there is no evidence to suggest their behaviour is indicative of the types of human tendon particularly prone to overuse injuries. In this study, the fatigue response of the largely positional digital extensor and the more energy storing deep digital flexor tendon of the bovine hoof were compared to the semitendinosus tendon of the human hamstring. Fascicles from each tendon type were subjected to either stress or strain controlled fatigue loading (cyclic creep or cyclic stress relaxation respectively). Gross fascicle mechanics were monitored after cyclic stress relaxation and the mean number of cycles to failure investigated with creep loading. Bovine extensor fascicles demonstrated the poorest fatigue response, while the energy storing human semitendinosus was the most fatigue resistant. Despite the superior fatigue response of the energy storing tendons, confocal imaging suggested a similar degree of damage in all three tendon types; it appears the more energy storing tendons are better able to withstand damage without detriment to mechanics.


Tendon; bovine; fatigue; human semitendinosus; mechanics

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