Mechanically, tendons behave like springs and store energy by stretching in proportion to applied stress. This relationship is potentially modified by the rate at which stress is applied, a phenomenon known as viscosity. Viscoelasticity, the combined effects of elasticity and viscosity, can affect maximum strain, the amount of stored energy, and the proportion of energy recovered (resilience). Previous studies of tendons have investigated the functional effects of viscoelasticity, but not at the intermediate durations of loading that are known to occur in fast locomotor events. In this study, we isolated tendon fascicles from rat tails and performed force-controlled tensile tests at rates between similar to 10 MPa s(-1) to similar to 80 MPa s(-1). At high rates of applied stress, we found that tendon fascicles strained less, stored less energy, and were more resilient than at low rates of stress (p = 0.007, p = 0.040, and p = 0.004, respectively). The measured changes, however, were very small across the range of strain rates studied. For example, the average strain for the slowest loading rate was 0.637% while it was 0.614% for the fastest loading. We conclude that although there is a measurable effect of loading rate on tendon mechanics, the effect is small and can be largely ignored in the context of muscle-actuated locomotion, with the possible exception of extreme muscle-tendon morphologies.
Frontiers in Physiology
Rosario, M. V., & Roberts, T. J. (2020). Loading Rate Has Little Influence on Tendon Fascicle Mechanics. Frontiers in Physiology, 11(255), 1-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.00255