Background: a rat model of supraspinatus overuse has suggested mechanisms governing tendon degeneration; however, delineating which changes are pathologic or simply physiologic adaptations to increased loading remains a question. The objective of this study was to develop and characterize a rat exercise model that induces systemic and local shoulder adaptations without mechanical injury to the supraspinatus tendon.
Methods: exercise rats completed a treadmill training protocol for 12 weeks. Body, fat pad, and heart weights were determined. Supraspinatus tendon collagen content, cross-sectional area, and mechanical properties were measured. Supraspinatus muscle cross-sectional area, weight, and the expression of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) proteins were measured. Humeri were analyzed with μCT and mechanically tested.
Results: exercise decreased fat pad mass. Supraspinatus muscle hypertrophied and had increased OXPHOS proteins. Humerus trabecular bone had increased anisotropic orientation, and cortical bone showed increased bone and tissue mineral density. Importantly, the supraspinatus tendon did not have diminished mechanical properties, indicating that this protocol was not injurious to the tendon.
Conclusion: this study establishes the first rat exercise protocol that induces adaptations in the shoulder. Future research can use this as a comparison model to study how the supraspinatus tendon adapts to loading and undergoes degeneration with overuse.
Keywords: mechanics; rotator cuff; supraspinatus; tendinopathy.