Fascicles and the interfascicular matrix show decreased fatigue life with ageing in energy storing tendons

Chavaunne T. Thorpe, Graham P. Riley, Helen L. Birch, Peter D. Clegg, Hazel R. C. Screen

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Tendon is composed of rope-like fascicles bound together by interfascicular matrix (IFM). The IFM is critical for the function of energy storing tendons, facilitating sliding between fascicles to allow these tendons to cyclically stretch and recoil. This capacity is required to a lesser degree in positional tendons. We have previously demonstrated that both fascicles and IFM in energy storing tendons have superior fatigue resistance compared with positional tendons, but the effect of ageing on the fatigue properties of these different tendon subunits has not been determined. Energy storing tendons become more injury-prone with ageing, indicating reduced fatigue resistance, hence we tested the hypothesis that the decline in fatigue life with ageing in energy storing tendons would be more pronounced in the IFM than in fascicles. We further hypothesised that tendon subunit fatigue resistance would not alter with ageing in positional tendons. Fascicles and IFM from young and old energy storing and positional tendons were subjected to cyclic fatigue testing until failure, and mechanical properties were calculated. The results show that both IFM and fascicles from the SDFT exhibit a similar magnitude of reduced fatigue life with ageing. By contrast, the fatigue life of positional tendon subunits was unaffected by ageing. The age-related decline in fatigue life of tendon subunits in energy storing tendons is likely to contribute to the increased risk of injury in aged tendons. Full understanding of the mechanisms resulting in this reduced fatigue life will aid in the development of treatments and interventions to prevent age-related tendinopathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58–64
Number of pages7
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date16 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Tendon
  • fascicle
  • interfascicular matrix
  • mechanical testing
  • fatigue resistance
  • creep

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