Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094849
  • Editorial

“Rehabilitation will increase the ‘capacity’ of your …insert musculoskeletal tissue here….” Defining ‘tissue capacity’: a core concept for clinicians

  1. SI Docking2,3
  1. 1Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia.
  2. 2Australian Centre of Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), Federation University, Ballarat, Australia
  3. 3School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Frankston, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr JL Cook, Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia; jill.cook{at}
  • Received 23 March 2015
  • Accepted 17 July 2015
  • Published Online First 8 August 2015

Capacity is a helpful term in clinical practice to indicate to clients that they (and more importantly their musculoskeletal tissues) are either able or unable to complete a task or participate in physical activity. In the context of injury—having exceeded the capacity of the tissue—the term has immediacy for muscle and ligament: a musculotendinous or ligament strain is an acute injury due to a loading event beyond the tissue's capacity. The tissue response in tendon is usually more gradual—acute traumatic injury of normal tendon is rare, whereas the pathological tendon can fail catastrophically (rupture).


A tissue is at full capacity when the individual is able to perform functional movements at the volume and frequency required without exacerbating symptoms or causing tissue injury. The capacity of a tissue clearly varies between individuals and the load they place on their tissues. Elite athletes require greater tissue capacity than recreational players, tissue of young people has greater capacity than that of older people (all other things being equal) and normal tissue has greater capacity than pathological tissue. As functional movements require full capacity in a number of musculoskeletal tissues, injury occurs when the capacity of the …

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