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Achilles Tendon Biomechanics in Response to Acute Intense Exercise

Joseph, Michael F.1,2,3; Lillie, Kurtis R.1,2; Bergeron, Daniel J.1,2; Cota, Kevin C.1,2; Yoon, Joseph S.1,2; Kraemer, William J.1,3; Denegar, Craig R.1,2,3

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: May 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 5 - p 1181–1186
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000361
Original Research

Abstract: Joseph, MF, Lillie, KR, Bergeron, DJ, Cota, KC, Yoon, JS, Kraemer, WJ, and Denegar, CR. Achilles tendon biomechanics in response to acute intense exercise. J Strength Cond Res 28(5): 1181–1186, 2014—Achilles tendinopathy is a common disorder and is more prevalent in men. Although differences in tendon mechanics between men and women have been reported, understanding of tendon mechanics in young active people is limited. Moreover, there is limited understanding of changes in tendon mechanics in response to acute exercise. Our purpose was to compare Achilles tendon mechanics in active young adult men and women at rest and after light and strenuous activity in the form of repeated jumping with an added load. Participants consisted of 17 men and 14 women (18–30 years) who were classified as being at least moderately physically active as defined by the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Tendon force/elongation measures were obtained during an isometric plantarflexion contraction on an isokinetic dynamometer with simultaneous ultrasound imaging of the Achilles tendon approximate to the soleus myotendinous junction. Data were collected at rest, after a 10-minute treadmill walk, and after a fatigue protocol of 100 toe jumps performed in a Smith machine, with a load equaling 20% of body mass. We found greater tendon elongation, decreased stiffness, and lower Young's modulus only in women after the jumping exercise. Force and stress were not different between groups but decreased subsequent to the jumping exercise bout. In general, women had greater elongation and strain, less stiffness, and a lower Young's modulus during plantarflexor contraction. These data demonstrate differences in tendon mechanics between men and women and suggest a potential protective mechanism explaining the lower incidence of Achilles tendinopathy in women.

1Department of Kinesiology;

2Physical Therapy Program; and

3Human Performance Laboratory, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut

Address correspondence to Michael F. Joseph, Michael.joseph@uconn.edu.

Copyright © 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.