Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Age-related changes in biomechanical properties of the Achilles tendon in rabbits

  • 309 Accesses

  • 80 Citations


We investigated age-related changes in the mechanical properties of rabbit Achilles tendon. The animals used were immature (age 3 weeks, body mass 380 g), young adult (age 8–10 months, body mass 4.1 kg) and old (age 4–5 years, body mass 5.1 kg) rabbits. The cross-sectional area of the tendon increased with growth and the tensile strength of the young adult [67.3 (SEM 4.2) MPa] and old [66.7 (SEM 3.8) MPa] tendon was significantly higher than that of the immature tendon [23.9 (SEM 3.8) MPa]. However, there was no statistically significant difference in tensile strength between mature and old tendons. These differences may be attributable to the change in body mass. The gradient of the stress-strain curves, that is, the tangent modulus of the mature tendon [618.0 (SEM 87.0) MPa], was higher than that of the immature [281.0 (SEM 104.6) MPa] and old [530.5 (SEM 91.0) MPa] tendon, although the difference was not significant. The elongation at failure was approximately 16% for all age groups. These results would suggest that rabbit Achilles tendon is highly compliant during growth.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alexander RM, Bennet-Clark HC (1977) Storage of elastic strain energy in muscle and other tissues. Nature 265:114–117

  2. Baratta R, Solomonow M (1991) The effect of tendon viscoelastic stiffness on the dynamic performance of isometric muscle. J Biomech 24:109–116

  3. Barfred T (1971) Experimental rupture of the Achilles tendon. Acta Orthop Scand 42:406–428

  4. Elliot DH (1965) Structure and function of mammalian tendon. Biol Rev 40:392–421

  5. Griffiths RI (1991) Shortening of muscle fibers during stretch of the active cat medial gastrocnemius muscle: role of tendon compliance. J Physiol 436:219–236

  6. Hart RA, Woo SL-Y, Newton PO (1992) Ultrastructure morphometry of anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. An experimental study in rabbits. J Orthop Res 10:96–103

  7. Haut RC (1983) Age-dependent influence of strain rate on the tensile failure of rat-tail tendon. Trans ASME, J Biomech Eng 105:296–299

  8. Haut RC, Little RW (1972) A constitutive equation for collagen fibers. J Biomech 5:423–430

  9. Herrick WC, Kingsbury HB, Lou DYS (1978) A study of the normal range of strain, strain rate and stiffness of tendon. J Biomed Mater Res 12:877–894

  10. Ker RF (1981) Dynamic tensile properties of the plantaris tendon of sheep. J Exp Biol 93:283–302

  11. Nakagawa Y, Majima T, Nagashima K (1994) Effect of ageing on ultrastructure of slow and fast skeletal muscle tendon in rabbit Achilles tendons. Acta Physiol Scand 152:307–313

  12. Newton PO, Woo SL-Y, Kitabayashi LR, Lyon RM, Anderson DR, Akeson WH (1990) Ultrastructural changes in knee ligaments following immobilization. Matrix 10:314–319

  13. Parry DAD, Barnes GRG, Craig AS (1978) A comparison of the size distribution of collagen fibrils in connective tissues as a function of age a possible relation between fibril size distribution and mechanical properties. Proc R Soc Lond [Biol] 203:305–321

  14. Riemersma Dj, Schamhardt HC (1985) In vitro mechanical properties of equine tendons in relation to cross-sectional area and collagen content. Res Vet Sci 39:263–270

  15. Roeleveld K, Baratta RV, Solomonow M, Van Soest AG, Huijing PA (1993) Role of tendon properties on the dynamic performance of different isometric muscles. J Appl Physiol 74:1348–1355

  16. Shadwich RE (1990) Elastic energy storage in tendons: mechanical differences related to function and age. J Appl Physiol 63:1033–1040

  17. Viidik A (1982) Age-related changes in connective tissues. In: Viidik A (ed) Lectures on gerontology. Academic Press, London, pp 173–211

  18. Viidik A, Danielsen CC, Oxlud H (1982) On fundamental phenomenological models, structure and mechanical properties of collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycan complexs. Biorheology 19:437–451

  19. Vilarta R, Vidal BC (1989) Anisotropic and biomechanical properties of tendons modified by exercise and denervation: aggregation and macromolecular order in collagen bundles. Matrix 9:55–61

  20. Walker P, Amstutz HC, Rubenfeld M (1976) Canine tendon studies. II. Biomechanical evaluation of normal and regrown canine tendons. J Biomed Mater Res 10:61–76

  21. Woo SL-Y, Ritter MA, Sanders TM, Gomez MA, Keul SC, Garfin SR, Akeson WH (1980) The biomechanical and biochemical properties of swine tendons-long term effects of exercise on the digital extensors. Connect Tissue Res 7:177–183

  22. Woo SL-Y, Gomez MA, Woo YK, Akeson WH (1982) Mechanical properties of tendons and ligaments. 11. The relationships of immobilization and exercise on tissue remodelling. Biorheology 19:397–408

  23. Woo SL-Y, Orland CA, Camp JF, Akeson WH (1986) Effects of postmortem storage by freezing on ligament tensile strength behavior. J Biomech 19:399–404

  24. Yamamoto N, Hayashi K, Kuriyama H, Ohno K, Yasuda K, Kaneda K (1992) Mechanical properties of the rabbit patellar tendon. Trans ASME, J Biomech Eng 114:332–337

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Y. Nakagawa.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nakagawa, Y., Hayashi, K., Yamamoto, N. et al. Age-related changes in biomechanical properties of the Achilles tendon in rabbits. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 73, 7–10 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00262803

Download citation

Key words

  • Achilles tendon
  • Mechanical properties
  • Tensile strength
  • Aging
  • Elasticity