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July 2021

Gender Difference in Architectural and Mechanical Properties of Medial Gastrocnemius–Achilles Tendon Unit In Vivo

Authors: Liqin Deng 1, 2, Xini Zhang 1, 2, Songlin Xiao 1, 2, Baofeng Wang 1, 2 and Weijie Fu 1, 2

Author information:

  1. School of Kinesiology, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai 200438, China
  2. Key Laboratory of Exercise and Health Sciences of Ministry of Education, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai 200438, China

Journal: Life - June 2021, Volume 11, Article no.569 (DOI: 10.3390/life11060569)

This study aims to explore whether gender differences exist in the architectural and mechanical properties of the medial gastrocnemius–Achilles tendon unit (gMTU) in vivo.

Thirty-six healthy male and female adults without training experience and regular exercise habits were recruited.

The architectural and mechanical properties of the gMTU were measured via an ultrasonography system and MyotonPRO, respectively.

Independent t-tests were utilized to quantify the gender difference in the architectural and mechanical properties of the gMTU. In terms of architectural properties, the medial gastrocnemius (MG)’s pennation angle and thickness were greater in males than in females, whereas no substantial gender difference was observed in the MG’s fascicle length; the males possessed Achilles tendons (ATs) with a longer length and a greater cross-sectional area than females.

In terms of mechanical properties, the MG’s vertical stiffness was lower and the MG’s logarithmic decrement was greater in females than in males. Both genders had no remarkable difference in the AT’s vertical stiffness and logarithmic decrement. Gender differences of individuals without training experience and regular exercise habits exist in the architectural and mechanical properties of the gMTU in vivo.

The MG’s force-producing capacities, ankle torque, mechanical efficiency and peak power were higher in males than in females. The load-resisting capacities of AT were greater and the MG strain was lesser in males than in females. These findings suggest that males have better physical fitness, speed and performance in power-based sports events than females from the perspective of morphology and biomechanics.

 

Keywords: gender; medial gastrocnemius; Achilles tendon; architecture; mechanical properties

Distinct gender-based differences exist in the architectural and mechanical properties of the MG and the architectural properties of the AT amongst Asian adults with irregular exercise habits. Specifically, among individuals without training experience and regular exercise habits, the MG’s pennation angle, thickness and vertical stiffness and the AT’s length and CSA are greater in males than in females.

In addition, the AT’s logarithmic decrement is lower in males than in females. The MG’s force-producing capacities, ankle torque, mechanical efficiency and peak power are higher in males than in females. The load-resisting capacities of the AT might be greater and the MG’s strain is lesser in males than in females as well. These results potentially suggest that males have a lower AT and calf injury risk and better musculoskeletal health than females. Therefore, males have better physical fitness, speed and performance in power-oriented sports events than females from the perspective of morphology and biomechanics.

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