Eccentric muscle contractions: their contribution to injury, prevention, rehabilitation, and sport

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003 Oct;33(10):557-71. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2003.33.10.557.


Muscles operate eccentrically to either dissipate energy for decelerating the body or to store elastic recoil energy in preparation for a shortening (concentric) contraction. The muscle forces produced during this lengthening behavior can be extremely high, despite the requisite low energetic cost. Traditionally, these high-force eccentric contractions have been associated with a muscle damage response. This clinical commentary explores the ability of the muscle-tendon system to adapt to progressively increasing eccentric muscle forces and the resultant structural and functional outcomes. Damage to the muscle-tendon is not an obligatory response. Rather, the muscle can hypertrophy and a change in the spring characteristics of muscle can enhance power; the tendon also adapts so as to tolerate higher tensions. Both basic and clinical findings are discussed. Specifically, we explore the nature of the structural changes and how these adaptations may help prevent musculoskeletal injury, improve sport performance, and overcome musculoskeletal impairments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Ligaments / injuries
  • Ligaments / physiopathology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Rats
  • Tendon Injuries / physiopathology