Tendon pathology is associated with damage. While tendon damage is likely initiated by mechanical loading, little is known about the specific etiology. Damage is defined as an irreversible change in the microstructure that alters the macroscopic mechanical parameters. In tendon, the link between mechanical loading and microstructural damage, resulting in macroscopic changes, is not fully elucidated. In addition, tendon damage at the macroscale has been proposed to initiate when tendon is loaded beyond a strain threshold, yet the metrics to define the damage threshold are not determined. We conducted multi-scale mechanical testing to investigate the mechanism of tendon damage by simultaneously quantifying macroscale mechanical and microstructural changes. At the microscale, we observe full recovery of the fibril strain and only partial recovery of the interfibrillar sliding, indicating that the damage initiates at the interfibrillar structures. We show that non-recoverable sliding is a mechanism for tendon damage and is responsible for the macroscale decreased linear modulus and elongated toe-region observed at the fascicle-level, and these macroscale properties are appropriate metrics that reflect tendon damage. We concluded that the inflection point of the stress-strain curve represents the damage threshold and, therefore, may be a useful parameter for future studies. Establishing the mechanism of damage at multiple length scales can improve prevention and rehabilitation strategies for tendon pathology. Statement of Significance Tendon pathology is associated with mechanically induced damage. Damage, as defined in engineering, is an irreversible change in microstructure that alters the macroscopic mechanical properties. Although microstructural damage and changes to macroscale mechanics are likely, this link to microstructural change was not yet established. We conducted multiscale mechanical testing to investigate the mechanism of tendon damage by simultaneously quantifying macroscale mechanical and microstructural changes. We showed that non-recoverable sliding between collagen fibrils is a mechanism for tendon damage. Establishing the mechanism of damage at multiple length scales can improve prevention and rehabilitation strategies for tendon pathology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Molecular Biology