Physical Activity Modulates Nerve Plasticity and Stimulates Repair after Achilles Tendon Rupture

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Abstract

In a rat model of tendon rupture using semiquantitative methodology, healing was assessed according to the diameter of newly organized collagen and the occurrence of the sensory neuropeptides (SP,CGRP)in relation to different levels of physical activity. Normally, innervation of the Achilles tendon is confined to the paratenon. After rupture new nerve fibers grow into the tendon proper, but disappear after healing. In a first experiment to establish peak tissue and nerve regeneration after rupture, tendon tissues from freely moving rats were collected consecutively over 16 weeks.Apeak increase in organized collagen and nerve ingrowth was observed between week 2 to 4 post rupture. Therefore, in a second experiment week 4 was chosen to assess the effect of physical activity on tendon healing in three groups of rats, that is, wheel running, plaster treated, and freely moving (controls). In the wheel-running group, the diameter of newly organized collagen was 94% (p = 0.001) greater than that in the plaster-treated group and 48% (P = 0.02) greater than that in the controls. Inversely, the neuronal occurrence of CGRP in the tendon proper was 57% (p = 0.02) lower in the wheel-running group than that in the plaster-treated group and53% (p = 0.02) lower than that in the controls, suggesting an earlier neuronal in-growth and disappearance in the more active group. Physical activity speeds up tendon healing, which may prove to be linked to accelerated neuronal plasticity. © 2006 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 25:164–172, 2007

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