Effects of running on human Achilles tendon length-Tension properties in the free and gastrocnemius components

Lichtwark, Glen A., Cresswell, Andrew G. and Newsham-West, Richard J. (2013) Effects of running on human Achilles tendon length-Tension properties in the free and gastrocnemius components. Journal of Experimental Biology, 216 23: 4388-4394. doi:10.1242/jeb.094219

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Author Lichtwark, Glen A.
Cresswell, Andrew G.
Newsham-West, Richard J.
Title Effects of running on human Achilles tendon length-Tension properties in the free and gastrocnemius components
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2013-01-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.094219
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 216
Issue 23
Start page 4388
End page 4394
Total pages 7
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists Ltd.
Language eng
Subject 1103 Clinical Sciences
1105 Dentistry
1312 Molecular Biology
1314 Physiology
1109 Neurosciences
1104 Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Abstract The elastic properties of the human Achilles tendon are important for locomotion; however, in vitro tests suggest that repeated cyclic contractions lead to tendon fatigue - an increase in length in response to stress applied. In vivo experiments have not, however, demonstrated mechanical fatigue in the Achilles tendon, possibly due to the limitations of using two-dimensional ultrasound imaging to assess tendon strain. This study used freehand three-dimensional ultrasound (3DUS) to determine whether the free Achilles tendon (calcaneus to soleus) or the gastrocnemius tendon (calcaneus to gastrocnemius) demonstrated tendon fatigue after running exercise. Participants (N=9) underwent 3DUS scans of the Achilles tendon during isometric contractions at four ankle torque levels (passive, and 14, 42 and 70 N m) before and after a 5 km run at a self-selected pace (10-14 km h-1). Running had a significant main effect on the length of the free Achilles tendon (P<0.01) with a small increase in length across the torque range. However, the mean lengthening effect was small (<1%) and was not accompanied by a change in free tendon stiffness. There was no significant change in the length of the gastrocnemius tendon or the free tendon cross-sectional area. While the free tendon was shown to lengthen, the lack of change in stiffness suggests the tendon exhibited mechanical creep rather than fatigue. These effects were much smaller than those predicted from in vitro experiments, possibly due to the different loading profile encountered and the ability of the tendon to repair in vivo.
Keyword Biomechanics
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences Publications
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