The Achilles tendon (AT) must adapt to meet changes in demands. This study explored AT adaptation by comparing properties within the jump and non-jump legs of jumping athletes. Non-jumping control athletes were included to control limb dominance effects.
AT properties were assessed in the preferred (jump) and non-preferred (lead) jumping legs of male collegiate-level long and/or high jump (jumpers; n=10) and cross-country (controls; n=10) athletes. Cross-sectional area (CSA), elongation, and force during isometric contractions were used to estimate the morphological, mechanical and material properties of the ATs bilaterally.
Jumpers exposed their ATs to more force and stress than controls (all p≤0.03). AT force and stress were also greater in the jump leg of both jumpers and controls than in the lead leg (all p<0.05). Jumpers had 17.8% greater AT stiffness and 24.4% greater Young's modulus in their jump leg compared to lead leg (all p<0.05). There were no jump versus lead leg differences in AT stiffness or Young's modulus within controls (all p>0.05).
ATs chronically exposed to elevated mechanical loading were found to exhibit greater mechanical (stiffness) and material (Young's modulus) properties.