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Computational Models Predict Larger Muscle Tissue Strains at Faster Sprinting Speeds

Fiorentino, Niccolo M.1; Rehorn, Michael R.2; Chumanov, Elizabeth S.3; Thelen, Darryl G.3,4; Blemker, Silvia S.1,2

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 4 - p 776–786
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000172
Applied Sciences

Introduction Proximal biceps femoris musculotendon strain injury has been well established as a common injury among athletes participating in sports that require sprinting near or at maximum speed; however, little is known about the mechanisms that make this muscle tissue more susceptible to injury at faster speeds.

Purpose This study aimed to quantify localized tissue strain during sprinting at a range of speeds.

Methods Biceps femoris long head (BFlh) musculotendon dimensions of 14 athletes were measured on magnetic resonance (MR) images and used to generate a finite-element computational model. The model was first validated through comparison with previous dynamic MR experiments. After validation, muscle activation and muscle–tendon unit length change were derived from forward dynamic simulations of sprinting at 70%, 85%, and 100% maximum speed and used as input to the computational model simulations. Simulations ran from midswing to foot contact.

Results The model predictions of local muscle tissue strain magnitude compared favorably with in vivo tissue strain measurements determined from dynamic MR experiments of the BFlh. For simulations of sprinting, local fiber strain was nonuniform at all speeds, with the highest muscle tissue strain where injury is often observed (proximal myotendinous junction). At faster sprinting speeds, increases were observed in fiber strain nonuniformity and peak local fiber strain (0.56, 0.67, and 0.72 for sprinting at 70%, 85%, and 100% maximum speed). A histogram of local fiber strains showed that more of the BFlh reached larger local fiber strains at faster speeds.

Conclusions At faster sprinting speeds, peak local fiber strain, fiber strain nonuniformity, and the amount of muscle undergoing larger strains are predicted to increase, likely contributing to the BFlh muscle’s higher injury susceptibility at faster speeds.

1Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; 2Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; 3Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI; 4Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI

Address for correspondence: Silvia S. Blemker, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, 415 Lane Road, Charlottesville, VA 22908; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2013.

Accepted for publication September 2013.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine