• horse;
  • tendinitis;
  • tendon mechanical properties;
  • tendon strain;
  • tensile;
  • rupture


The objective of this study was to mechanically characterise superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) lesions. Eight pathological SDFTs, isolated from 6 adult horses, were tested in traction until rupture (at 1 mm/s). The stresses and strains simultaneously undergone by each of the 7 segments of a tendon were determined throughout the test, and the modulus of elasticity of each segment was evaluated from the segmental stress-strain curve thus obtained. These mechanical data were compared to those obtained on 10 normal SDFTs. After the test, the tendinous segments were submitted to a histological examination in order to characterise the tissues. Three lesional categories (I to III, of increasing maturity), as well as the normal tendinous tissue, were defined and assessed quantitatively according to their extent in the histological sections.

The most recent and severe lesions (categories I and II) were correlated with a large degree of hypertrophy (often above 200%) of the corresponding segments, with a resulting decrease in the stress at tendon rupture, and a slight decrease in the strain at tendon rupture in spite of a low modulus of elasticity (low stiffness). In contrast, the adjacent areas, less or not injured, underwent compensatory strains. This relative overstraining was especially critical with category III tissue, often present in the transitional areas between sound and severely injured segments. Here the modulus of elasticity was low whereas the hypertrophy was only slight. Therefore, the corresponding segments seemed to be the most fragile sites, and those most predisposed to recurring injury, in an injured SDFT.