Transected flexor tendons are typically treated by suture repair followed by rehabilitation that generates repetitive tendon loading. Recent results in an in vivo canine model indicate that during the first 10 days after injury and repair, there is an increase in the rigidity of the tendon repair site. Our objective was to determine whether or not ex vivo cyclic loading of repaired flexor tendons causes a similar increase in repair-site rigidity. We simulated 10 days of rehabilitation by applying 6000 loading cycles to repaired canine flexor tendons ex vivo at force levels generated during passive motion rehabilitation; we then evaluated their tensile mechanical properties. High-force (peak force, 17N) cyclic loading increased repair-site rigidity by 100% and decreased repair-site strain by 50%, whereas low-force (5N) loading did not change the properties of the repair site. This mechanical conditioning effect may explain, in part, the changes in tensile properties observed after only 10 days of healing in vivo. Mechanical conditioning of repaired flexor tendons by repetitive forces applied during rehabilitation may lead to increases in repair-site rigidity and decreases in strain, thereby altering the mechanical loading environment of tissues and cells at the repair site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-856
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002


  • Cyclic loading
  • Flexor tendon
  • Rigidity
  • Tendon repair
  • Tensile properties


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