The role of mechanobiology in tendon healing

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2012 Feb;21(2):228-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2011.11.002.


Mechanical cues affect tendon healing, homeostasis, and development in a variety of settings. Alterations in the mechanical environment are known to result in changes in the expression of extracellular matrix proteins, growth factors, transcription factors, and cytokines that can alter tendon structure and cell viability. Loss of muscle force in utero or in the immediate postnatal period delays tendon and enthesis development. The response of healing tendons to mechanical load varies depending on anatomic location. Flexor tendons require motion to prevent adhesion formation, yet excessive force results in gap formation and subsequent weakening of the repair. Excessive motion in the setting of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction causes accumulation of macrophages, which are detrimental to tendon graft healing. Complete removal of load is detrimental to rotator cuff healing; yet, large forces are also harmful. Controlled loading can enhance healing in most settings; however, a fine balance must be reached between loads that are too low (leading to a catabolic state) and too high (leading to microdamage). This review will summarize existing knowledge of the mechanobiology of tendon development, homeostasis, and healing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Tendon Injuries / pathology
  • Tendon Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery*
  • Tendons / pathology
  • Tendons / physiopathology*
  • Tendons / surgery
  • Tensile Strength
  • Weight-Bearing
  • Wound Healing / physiology*