The acute adaptations of normal and pathological human Achilles tendons to eccentric and concentric exercise

Grigg, Nicole Lorraine (2011) The acute adaptations of normal and pathological human Achilles tendons to eccentric and concentric exercise. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Eccentric exercise is the conservative treatment of choice for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy. While there is a growing body of evidence supporting the medium to long term efficacy of eccentric exercise in Achilles tendinopathy treatment, very few studies have investigated the short term response of the tendon to eccentric exercise. Moreover, the mechanisms through which tendinopathy symptom resolution occurs remain to be established. The primary purpose of this thesis was to investigate the acute adaptations of the Achilles tendon to, and the biomechanical characteristics of, the eccentric exercise protocol used for Achilles tendinopathy rehabilitation and a concentric equivalent. The research was conducted with an orientation towards exploring potential mechanisms through which eccentric exercise may bring about a resolution of tendinopathy symptoms. Specifically, the morphology of tendinopathic and normal Achilles tendons was monitored using high resolution sonography prior to and following eccentric and concentric exercise, to facilitate comparison between the treatment of choice and a similar alternative. To date, the only proposed mechanism through which eccentric exercise is thought to result in symptom resolution is the increased variability in motor output force observed during eccentric exercise. This thesis expanded upon prior work by investigating the variability in motor output force recorded during eccentric and concentric exercises, when performed at two different knee joint angles, by limbs with and without symptomatic tendinopathy. The methodological phase of the research focused on establishing the reliability of measures of tendon thickness, tendon echogenicity, electromyography (EMG) of the Triceps Surae and the standard deviation (SD) and power spectral density (PSD) of the vertical ground reaction force (VGRF). These analyses facilitated comparison between the error in the measurements and experimental differences identified as statistically significant, so that the importance and meaning of the experimental differences could be established. One potential limitation of monitoring the morphological response of the Achilles tendon to exercise loading is that the Achilles tendon is continually exposed to additional loading as participants complete the walking required to carry out their necessary daily tasks. The specific purpose of the last experiment in the methodological phase was to evaluate the effect of incidental walking activity on Achilles tendon morphology. The results of this study indicated that walking activity could decrease Achilles tendon thickness (negative diametral strain) and that the decrease in thickness was dependent on both the amount of walking completed and the proximity of walking activity to the sonographic examination. Thus, incidental walking activity was identified as a potentially confounding factor for future experiments which endeavoured to monitor changes in tendon thickness with exercise loading. In the experimental phase of this thesis the thickness of Achilles tendons was monitored prior to and following isolated eccentric and concentric exercise. The initial pilot study demonstrated that eccentric exercise resulted in a greater acute decrease in Achilles tendon thickness (greater diametral strain) compared to an equivalent concentric exercise, in participants with no history of Achilles tendon pain. This experiment was then expanded to incorporate participants with unilateral Achilles tendinopathy. The major finding of this experiment was that the acute decrease in Achilles tendon thickness observed following eccentric exercise was modified by the presence of tendinopathy, with a smaller decrease (less diametral strain) noted for tendinopathic compared to healthy control tendon. Based on in vitro evidence a decrease in tendon thickness is believed to reflect extrusion of fluid from the tendon with loading. This process would appear to be limited by the presence of pathology and is hypothesised to be a result of the changes in tendon structure associated with tendinopathy. Load induced fluid movement may be important to the maintenance of tendon homeostasis and structure as it has the potential to enhance molecular movement and stimulate tendon remodelling. On this basis eccentric exercise may be more beneficial to the tendon than concentric exercise. Finally, EMG and motor output force variability (SD and PSD of VGRF) were investigated while participants with and without tendinopathy performed the eccentric and concentric exercises. Although between condition differences were identified as statistically significant for a number of force variability parameters, the differences were not greater than the limits of agreement for repeated measures. Consequently the meaning and importance of these findings were questioned. Interestingly, the EMG amplitude of all three Triceps Surae muscles did not vary with knee joint angle during the performance of eccentric exercise. This raises questions pertaining to the functional importance of performing the eccentric exercise protocol at each of the two knee joint angles as it is currently prescribed. EMG amplitude was significantly greater during concentric compared to eccentric muscle actions. Differences in the muscle activation patterns may result in different stress distributions within the tendon and be related to the different diametral strain responses observed for eccentric and concentric muscle actions.

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ID Code: 47048
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Smeathers, James
Keywords: Achilles tendon, tendinopathy, eccentric exercise, rehabilitation, treatment, diametral strain, morphology, tendon thickness, ultrasound, sonography, echogenicity, time-dependent conditioning, walking, electromyography, ground reaction force, power spectral density, frequency, motor output variability, Triceps surae, steadiness
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Nov 2011 23:46
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2011 23:46

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