Collagen pp 111-131 | Cite as

Damage and Fatigue

  • R.F. Ker


Collagenous tissues can, inevitably, be damaged and broken by overload, but they are also susceptible to the prolonged application of a lesser load. The majority of studies are for bone with tendon in the second place. This chapter therefore concentrates on these tissues. Test variables which can effect the time-to-rupture include the applied stress, the frequency and the temperature. A knowledge of the stresses which arise in life helps to put the results of in vitro tests into perspective.

The concepts and quantities used to characterize the fracture and fatigue behavior of materials are based on an understanding of the initiation and propagation of cracks. These concepts and quantities were first applied to metals, but their use has been extended to other materials, including, among collagenous tissues, bone and dentin. However, the anisotropy and inhomogeneity of these tissue mean that caution must be used in assessing the results. Tendons are far more strikingly anisotropic and the standard techniques of Fracture Mechanics for studying crack propagation are not appropriate.

The fatigue behavior of tendon and bone illustrates the idea that load-bearing biological structures are built to be only just adequate for their function. “Just adequate” includes allowance for routine repair of non-symptomatic damage. This balance of damage and repair seems to be part of the control mechanism by which biological tissues are maintained by their cells in a viable state throughout life.


Fatigue Damage Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanic Compact Bone Compact Tension Specimen Tertiary Creep 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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  • R.F. Ker

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