The role of neutrophils in injury and repair following muscle stretch

J Anat. 2006 Apr;208(4):459-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2006.00543.x.


Stretch injury to the myotendinous junction is a common problem in competitive athletes and those involved in regular physical activity. The major risk factor for recurrent injury appears to be the primary injury itself. Physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers and athletes alike continue to search for optimal treatment and prevention strategies. Acute inflammation is regarded as the body's generalized protective response to tissue injury. An especially important and unexplored aspect of inflammation following injury is the role of inflammatory cells in extending injury and possibly directing muscle repair. It has been suggested that the inflammatory reaction, although it typically represents a reaction to damage and necrosis, may even bring about some local damage of its own and therefore increase the possibility for scarring and fibrosis. Limiting certain aspects of inflammation may theoretically reduce muscle damage as well as signals for muscle scarring. Here we focus on the role of neutrophils in injury and repair of stretch-injured skeletal muscle. A minimally invasive model that generates a reproducible injury to rabbit skeletal muscle is presented. We present a plausible theory that neutrophil-derived oxidants resulting from the initial stretch injury are responsible for extending the damage. An anti-CD11b antibody that blocks the neutrophil's respiratory burst is employed to reduce myofibre damage. An intriguing area that is currently being explored in our laboratory and others is the potential role for neutrophils to contribute to muscle growth and repair. It may be possible that neutrophils facilitate muscle repair through removal of tissue debris as well as by activation of satellite cells. Recent and ongoing investigations point to interleukin-6 as a possible key cytokine in muscle inflammation and repair. Studies to elucidate a clearer understanding of this possibility will be reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / immunology*
  • Cicatrix / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fibrosis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Rabbits
  • Wound Healing / immunology


  • Interleukin-6