We demonstrated that the susceptibility of skeletal muscle to injury from lengthening contractions in the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse is directly linked with the extent of fiber branching within the muscles and that both parameters increase as the mdx animal ages. We subjected isolated extensor digitorum longus muscles to a lengthening contraction protocol of 15% strain and measured the resulting drop in force production (force deficit). We also examined the morphology of individual muscle fibers. In mdx mice 1-2 mo of age, 17% of muscle fibers were branched, and the force deficit of 7% was not significantly different from that of age-matched littermate controls. In mdx mice 6-7 mo of age, 89% of muscle fibers were branched, and the force deficit of 58% was significantly higher than the 25% force deficit of age-matched littermate controls. These data demonstrated an association between the extent of branching and the greater vulnerability to contraction-induced injury in the older fast-twitch dystrophic muscle. Our findings demonstrate that fiber branching may play a role in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy in mdx mice, and this could affect the interpretation of previous studies involving lengthening contractions in this animal.