Herein we describe a new test system to produce a standardized partial muscle-tendon junction (MTJ) stretch injury. In anesthetized rabbits the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle-tendon unit is unilaterally shortened using a custom designed clamp roller system. An angular displacement (average velocity of 450 °·s-1) is applied about the foot to plantarflex the ankle 90 ° while the lower extremity is fixed. During ankle rotation the TA muscle is tetanically stimulated to generate an eccentric stretch injury at the MTJ. Forty-eight hours after injury, isometric torque deficit(injured/sham) was measured. Two groups of animals (N = 6 in each group) were tested with the only difference between the two groups being the initial tendon shortening. In Group 1 (tendon shortening = 1.2 cm, N= 6) the torque deficit was 36.7 ± 5.9% (mean ± SD). In Group 2(tendon shortening = 1.5 cm, N = 6) the torque deficit was 58.7± 7.4% (mean ± SD). No order effect was suggested by the data(P = 0.6062), but the difference in torque deficit between the two groups was highly significant (P = 0.0001). For all tests in which the tendon was temporarily shortened before muscle stimulation and stretch(N = 12) there was a visible hematoma at the MTJ similar to the injury that is common in athletic injuries. Histological evaluation 48 h after injury revealed both fiber tearing and inflammation at the MTJ. In addition, there was focal fiber damage in the muscle belly for both groups. The damage and inflammatory process, however, were more severe in the group with greater initial tendon shortening.
Departments of Family Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, WI 53711
Submitted for publication June 1997.
Accepted for publication October 1997.
We acknowledge the financial support of the Whitaker Foundation and the UW Surgical Associates. We would also like to thank Dennis Heisey, Ph.D., for his assistance with the statistical analysis.
Address for correspondence: Thomas M. Best, M.D., Ph.D., FACSM, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, 621 Science Drive, Madison, WI 53711. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.