A potential mechanism for age-related declines in patellar tendon biomechanics

J Orthop Res. 2002 Nov;20(6):1315-22. doi: 10.1016/S0736-0266(02)00052-9.


Injuries to soft tissues such as tendons are becoming ever more frequent among the elderly. While increasing levels of activity likely contribute to these injuries, age-related declines in tendon strength may also be important. Whether these declines in biomechanical properties are associated with changes in fibril diameter or collagen type remains in question. In this study, age-related changes were investigated in patellar tendons from young adult rabbits (1-year old, n = 17) and from rabbits at the onset of senescence (4-year old, n = 33). Patellar tendon biomechanics was correlated with both collagen fibril diameter and with the presence of type V collagen, a known regulator of collagen fibril diameter. We hypothesize that (a) aging from I to 4 years results in significant reductions in patellar tendon biomechanical properties, and (b) these age-related declines are associated with smaller fibril diameters and with the presence of type V collagen. Maximum stress declined 25% between I and 4 years of age (100.7 +/- 5.6 MPa and 74.3 +/- 3.4 MPa, respectively, p < 0.0003) (mean +/- SEM) and strain energy density declined 40% (p < 0.001). The distribution of collagen fibrils from 4-year old rabbits was skewed significantly towards smaller diameters compared to fibrils from 1-year old rabbits (p < 0.001). Type V collagen was observed only in the 4-year old rabbit tendons. These correlations suggest that with increasing age after skeletal maturity, type V collagen may help to regulate the assembly and thus diameter of collagen fibrils and thereby adversely affect patellar tendon strength.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Collagen Type V / analysis
  • Female
  • Patella / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Tendons / chemistry
  • Tendons / pathology
  • Tendons / physiology*


  • Collagen Type V