The complex structure of tendons relates to their mechanical properties. Previous research has associated the waviness of collagen fibers (crimp) during quasi-static tensile loading to tensile mechanical properties, but less is known about the role of fatigue loading on crimp properties. In this study (IACUC approved), mouse patellar tendons were fatigue loaded while an integrated plane polariscope simultaneously assessed crimp properties. We demonstrate a novel structural mechanism whereby tendon crimp amplitude and frequency are altered with fatigue loading. In particular, fatigue loading increased the crimp amplitude across the tendon width and length, and these structural alterations were shown to be both region and load dependent. The change in crimp amplitude was strongly correlated to mechanical tissue laxity (defined as the ratio of displacement and gauge length relative to the first cycle of fatigue loading assessed at constant load throughout testing), at all loads and regions evaluated. Together, this study highlights the role of fatigue loading on tendon crimp properties as a function of load applied and region evaluated, and offers an additional structural mechanism for mechanical alterations that may lead to ultimate tendon failure.
Keywords: collagen; imaging; ligament; patellar tendon; polarized light.
© 2015 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.