Background: Differences in mechanical loading of the patellar tendon have been suggested as a reason for varying effects in rehabilitation of patellar tendinopathy using different eccentric squat exercises and devices. The aim was to characterize the magnitude and pattern of mechanical load at the knee and on the patellar tendon during four types of eccentric squat.
Methods: Subjects performed squats with a submaximal free weight and with maximal effort in a device for eccentric overloading (Bromsman), on a decline board and horizontal surface. Kinematics was recorded with a motion-capture system, reaction forces with force plates, and electromyography from three leg muscles with surface electrodes. Inverse dynamics was used to calculate knee joint kinetics.
Findings: Eccentric work, mean and peak patellar tendon force, and angle at peak force were greater (25-30%) for squats on decline board compared to horizontal surface with free weight, but not in Bromsman. Higher knee load forces (60-80%), but not work, were observed with Bromsman than free weight. Angular excursions at the knee and ankle were larger with decline board, particularly with free weight, and smaller in Bromsman than with free weight. Mean electromyography was greater on a decline board for gastrocnemius (13%) and vastus medialis (6%) with free weight, but in Bromsman only for gastrocnemius (7%).
Interpretation: The results demonstrated clear differences in the biomechanical loading on the knee during different squat exercises. Quantification of such differences provides information that could be used to explain differences in rehabilitation effects as well as in designing more optimal rehabilitation exercises for patellar tendinopathy.