• A microstructural model of tendon failure.

      Gregory, James; email: james.gregory@manchester.ac.uk; Hazel, Andrew L; Shearer, Tom (2021-06-30)
      Collagen fibrils are the most important structural component of tendons. Their crimped structure and parallel arrangement within the tendon lead to a distinctive non-linear stress-strain curve when a tendon is stretched. Microstructural models can be used to relate microscale collagen fibril mechanics to macroscale tendon mechanics, allowing us to identify the mechanisms behind each feature present in the stress-strain curve. Most models in the literature focus on the elastic behaviour of the tendon, and there are few which model beyond the elastic limit without introducing phenomenological parameters. We develop a model, built upon a collagen recruitment approach, that only contains microstructural parameters. We split the stress in the fibrils into elastic and plastic parts, and assume that the fibril yield stretch and rupture stretch are each described by a distribution function, rather than being single-valued. By changing the shapes of the distributions and their regions of overlap, we can produce macroscale tendon stress-strain curves that generate the full range of features observed experimentally, including those that could not be explained using existing models. These features include second linear regions occurring after the tendon has yielded, and step-like failure behaviour present after the stress has peaked. When we compare with an existing model, we find that our model reduces the average root mean squared error from 4.53MPa to 2.29MPa, and the resulting parameter values are closer to those found experimentally. Since our model contains only parameters that have a direct physical interpretation, it can be used to predict how processes such as ageing, disease, and injury affect the mechanical behaviour of tendons, provided we can quantify the effects of these processes on the microstructure. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.]