Tendon's primary function is a mechanical link between muscle and bone. The hierarchical structure of tendon and specific compositional constituents are believed to be critical for proper mechanical function. With increased appreciation for tendon importance and the development of various technological advances, this review paper summarizes recent experimental approaches that have been used to study multiscale tendon mechanics, includes an overview of studies that have evaluated the role of specific tissue constituents, and also proposes challenges/opportunities facing tendon study. Tendon has been demonstrated to have specific structural characteristics (e.g., multi-level hierarchy, crimp pattern, helix) and complex mechanical properties (e.g., non-linearity, anisotropy, viscoelasticity). Physical mechanisms including uncrimping, fiber sliding, and collagen reorganization have been shown to govern tendon mechanical responses under both static and dynamic loading. Several tendon constituents with relatively small quantities have been suggested to play a role in its mechanics, although some results are conflicting. Further research should be performed to understand the interplay and communication of tendon mechanical properties across levels of the hierarchical structure, and further show how each of these components contribute to tendon mechanics. The studies summarized and discussed in this review have helped elucidate important aspects of multiscale tendon mechanics, which is a prerequisite for analyzing stress/strain transfer between multiple scales and identifying key principles of mechanotransduction. This information could further facilitate interpreting the functional diversity of tendons from different species, different locations, and even different developmental stages, and then better understand and identify fundamental concepts related to tendon degeneration, disease, and healing.
- experimental techniques
- mechanical properties