Research: Why You May Be More Prone to Tendon Injuries as You Age

Why Older People Suffer More Tendon Injuries

Older people typically get more tendon injuries, compared to younger persons. Researchers from the United Kingdom have tried to explain why this may be so in a study and their findings could help to develop more effective treatments for these injuries.

achiles tendon

Achiles Tendon

Using samples from horses, scientists from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), University of East Anglia, University College London, and University of Liverpool found that the stiffening of a material between tendon fibers plays significant role in tendon injuries. Aging causes this structure to become stiffer, making a person more susceptible to injuries.

The researchers, who published the findings in the Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, said tendons of horses are similar to those in humans.

They hoped the results from their study would help develop more effective treatments for prevention and healing of tendon injuries.

Understanding high incidence of tendon injuries among older people

Researchers had shown in previous research that older individuals tend to get more tendon injuries as a result of stiffening of tendons.

However, this UK study revealed that it is the stiffening of the tissue that helps to secure tendon fiber bundles that makes the risk of injuries to increase with age. Researchers reached this conclusion after examining repeatedly stretched tendon samples from horses for elasticity and resilience.

The interfascicular matrix (IFM) surrounds tendon fiber bundles. It comprises tissue, which fiber bundles rely on to slither past each other and to extend one by one.

Horses make use of the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) – very similar to the Achilles tendon in humans – to store energy for propulsion. They rely on the common digital extensor tendon (CDET) for leg positioning. The SDFT requires greater IFM stretching than the CDET.

In younger horses, the IFM is more elastic and better able to recover after SDFT loading. It, however, starts to lose its elasticity and resilience as a result of aging. The tissue stiffening and reduced recovery ability that set in make older people prone to tendon injuries and slower to recover from them.

Preventing and speeding up recovery

As a result of the similarity between the SDFT and human Achilles tendon, the researchers said the results from their study can be used directly for treatment of people with Achilles tendon injuries.

“We now have a much greater understanding of what happens to tendon structure as people get older and the role that plays in injuries,” said Dr. Chavaunne Thorpe of the School of Engineering and Materials Science at Queen Mary, University of London.

Thorpe stated that their findings might be useful for developing “measures to reduce the risk of tendon injury or to speed recovery.”

Results from the British study suggest that injuries to diverse tendons in the body could be cared for another way. They add to growing evidence on risks for tendon injuries.



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