Interfibrillar shear behavior is altered in aging tendon fascicles

  • Jared R. Muench
  • Darryl G. Thelen
  • Corinne R. HenakEmail author
Original Paper


Tendon elongation involves both stretching and sliding between adjacent fascicles and fibers. Hence, age-related changes in tendon matrix properties may alter sliding behavior and thereby affect injury thresholds. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of age on interfibrillar shear behavior in partial cut tendon fascicles. Cine microscopic imaging was used to track deformation patterns of intact and partial cut fascicles from mature (9 months, n = 10) and aged (32 months, n = 10) rat tail tendons. Finite element (FE) models coupled with experimental data provided insight into age-related changes in tissue constitutive properties that could give rise to age-dependent behavior. Intact fascicles from aged tendons exhibited a 28% lower linear region modulus and reduced toe region when compared to fascicles from mature tendons. Partial cut tendon fascicles consistently exhibited a shearing plane that extended longitudinally from the tip of the cut. Both mature and aged fascicles exhibited distinct failure that was observable in differential displacement across the shearing plane. However, aged fascicles exhibited 11–20% higher grip-to-grip strain at failure and tended to exhibit more variable and greater differential displacement at failure, when compared to mature fascicles. FE models suggest that this age-related change in shear behavior arises from a reduction in interfibrillar shear modulus with age. These data suggest that aging alters interfibrillar failure mechanisms and hence may contribute to the increased propensity for injury that is commonly seen in older tendons.


Tendon fascicle Aging Shear modulus Finite element modeling Interfibrillar matrix 



This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (Grant AG051748). Specimens were acquired from the Connor and Ciucci surgical laboratories on campus. Many thanks go to Dr. Joshua Roth for his expertise on statistical testing and assistance with testing device troubleshooting.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10237_2019_1251_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 51 kb)
10237_2019_1251_MOESM2_ESM.docx (139 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 139 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Orthopedics and RehabilitationUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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