The effects of stress deprivation on the mechanical properties of the patellar tendon (PT) were studied using 14 albino rats.
The PT was stress-shielded with cerclages on one side, while the contralateral patellar tendon served as a sham-operated control. After 10 weeks, paired load-strain as well as load-relaxation experiments were performed (11 and 3 specimen pairs, respectively).
Mechanical tests showed, irrespective of the cerclage material used, that strain was increased significantly after stress-shielding (P < 0.02). The time constant significantly decreased in the stress-shielded specimens under 5 N loads, which may be considered ‘physiological’. Tissue remodeling might explain the observed changes in the viscoelastic behaviour of the stress-shielded tendons. Loading, even in the physiological range of normal daily activity, may lead to an elongation of previously stressshielded tendons or ligaments and consequently alter the behaviour of a joint.