Aging and the effects of a half marathon on Achilles tendon force–elongation relationship

Abstract

Purpose

We aimed to determine whether there are different changes in Achilles tendon (AT) mechanical properties in middle-aged, compared to younger runners that might indicate that tendon fatigue, induced by long-distance running, is age-dependent.

Methods

27 middle-aged (50–67 years) and 22 younger (21–29 years) participants ran a 21 km route at their own pace (mean and SD: old: 3.1 ± 0.3 m s−1; young: 3.6 ± 0.5 m s−1). We tested for changes in the AT force–elongation relationship using dynamometry and ultrasonography during isometric voluntary ankle plantarflexion ramp contractions, conducted 20–28 h pre-run, immediately pre-run, immediately post-run and 20–28 h post-run. Stride frequency and number were examined to estimate cyclic tensile loading characteristics of the tendon during running.

Results

Muscle strength decreased significantly (P < 0.05) in both groups immediately post-run (old: 17 %; young: 11 %) and recovered to baseline within 20–28 h post-run. AT stiffness did not change for the younger adults, whereas the middle-aged adults showed a significant (P < 0.05) decrease in AT stiffness (22 %). However, tendon stiffness recovered to baseline 20–28 h post-run. Middle-aged, compared to young adults, demonstrated significantly (P < 0.05) greater stride frequency and number, but no correlations with tendon fatigue changes were determined (R2 ≤ 0.038).

Conclusions

The results suggest that the plasticity of the AT in response to short-term mechanical loading may be age dependent and that the AT length–tension properties of middle-aged runners may be more vulnerable to change following running compared to younger athletes. However, the observed AT changes in the middle-aged runners dissipated within 20–28 h post-run, suggesting that a tendon viscoelastic recovery mechanism may occur in vivo.

Keywords

Tendon stiffnessTendon fatigueRunningMechanical loadingAgeMuscle contraction

Abbreviations

1dayPre-Run

20–28 h before the run

1dayPost-Run

Within 20–28 h after the run

AT

Achilles tendon

ANOVA

Analysis of variance

CSA

Cross-sectional area

GM

Gastrocnemius medialis

imPre-Run

Immediately before the run

imPost-Run

Immediately after the run

MTU

Muscle–tendon unit

MVC

Maximal voluntary plantarflexion ramp contraction

SD

Standard deviation

Supplementary material

421_2016_3482_MOESM1_ESM.docx (147 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 146 kb) 


Autor / Fonte:Thijs Maria Anne Ackermans, Gaspar Epro, Christopher McCrum, Kai Daniel Oberländer, Frank Suhr, Maarten Robert Drost, Kenneth Meijer, Kiros Karamanidis European Journal of Applied Physiology 2016 September 30
Link: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-016-3482-z