Early stage fatigue damage occurs in bovine tendon fascicles in the absence of changes in mechanics at either the gross or micro-structural level

Jennifer Shepherd, Graham Riley, Hazel Screen

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Many tendon injuries are believed to result from repetitive motion or overuse, leading to the accumulation of micro-damage over time. In vitro fatigue loading can be used to characterise damage during repeated use and investigate how this may relate to the aetiology of tendinopathy. This study considered the effect of fatigue loading on fascicles from two functionally distinct bovine tendons: the digital extensor and deep digital flexor. Micro-scale extension mechanisms were investigated in fascicles before or after a period of cyclic creep loading, comparing two different measurement techniques - the displacement of a photo-bleached grid and the use of nuclei as fiducial markers. Whilst visual damage was clearly identified after only 300 cycles of creep loading, these visual changes did not affect either gross fascicle mechanics or fascicle microstructural extension mechanisms over the 900 fatigue cycles investigated. However, significantly greater fibre sliding was measured when observing grid deformation rather than the analysis of nuclei movement. Measurement of microstructural extension with both techniques was localised and this may explain the absence of change in microstructural deformation in response to fatigue loading. Alternatively, the data may demonstrate that fascicles can withstand a degree of matrix disruption with no impact on mechanics. Whilst use of a photo-bleached grid to directly measure the collagen is the best indicator of matrix deformation, nuclei tracking may provide a better measure of the strain perceived directly by the cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
Early online date4 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cattle
  • Collagen
  • Male
  • Materials Testing
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tendon Injuries
  • Tendons
  • Time Factors
  • Weight-Bearing

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