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January 2021

Stiffness of the Gastrocnemius–Achilles Tendon Complex Between Amateur Basketball Players and the Non-athletic General Population

Authors: Tian-Tian Chang 1, Zhe Li 2, Xue-Qiang Wang 1 and Zhi-Jie Zhang 3

Author information:

  1. Department of Sport Rehabilitation, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China
  2. The First Clinical Medical School, Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine, Xian, China
  3. Rehabilitation Therapy Center, Luoyang Orthopedic Hospital of Henan Province, Orthopedic Hospital of Henan Province, Luoyang, China

Journal: Frontiers in Physiology - December 2020, Volume 11, Article 606706 (DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2020.606706)

Muscle and tendon stiffness are related to sports performance, tendinopathy, and tendon degeneration. However, the effects of habitual loading on muscle and tendon mechanical properties are unclear. Using amateur basketball players as examples, we investigated the effects of mechanical loading on the stiffness of the gastrocnemius–Achilles tendon (AT) complex in non-dominant and dominant lower limbs. Then, we evaluated the correlation between gastrocnemius and AT stiffness. Forty participants (20 amateur basketball players; 20 normal non-athletic persons) were recruited for this study.

Stiffness of the gastrocnemius–AT complex was assessed using MyotonPRO at neutral position and 10° dorsiflexion of the ankle joint in participants from amateur basketball players and the non-athletic general population.

Our results showed a greater stiffness of the gastrocnemius–AT complex in amateur basketball players than that in healthy non-athletic subjects at neutral position and 10° dorsiflexion of the ankle joint (P < 0.05). No significant difference in stiffness was found between the non-dominant and dominant lower limbs either in amateur basketball players or in generally healthy subjects (P > 0.05). A significant positive correlation was obtained between stiffness of the AT and medial gastrocnemius (MG) in amateur basketball players (neutral position: r = 0.726 and P = 0.001; dorsiflexion 10°: r = 0.687 and P = 0.001).

The amateur basketball players exhibit significantly higher stiffness value in Achilles and gastrocnemius. This is possibly caused by repeated training effects. The symmetric stiffness of the AT and gastrocnemius exists both in amateur basketball players and generally healthy subjects. A significant correlation between the AT and the MG was found in amateur basketball players.

 

Keywords: stiffness, adaptation, Achilles tendon, gastrocnemius, basketball

The stiffness of the gastrocnemius and AT in basketball players is significantly greater than that in the general non-athletic subjects. This is possibly caused by repeated training effects. The symmetric stiffness of the AT and gastrocnemius exists both in amateur basketball players and in generally healthy subjects. The present study suggests a significant correlation between the MG stiffness and AT stiffness in amateur basketball players.

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