Objective: Tendon injuries have been reported to occur more frequently in individuals with increased adiposity. Treatment also appears to have poorer outcomes among these individuals. Our objective was to examine the extent and consistency of associations between adiposity and tendinopathy.
Methods: A systematic review of observational studies was conducted. Eight electronic databases were searched (Allied and Complementary Medicine, Biological Abstracts, CINAHL, Current Contents, EMBase, Medline, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science) and citation tracking was performed on included reports. Studies were included if they compared adiposity between subjects with and without tendon injury or examined adiposity as a predictor of conservative treatment success.
Results: Four longitudinal cohorts, 14 cross-sectional studies, 8 case-control studies, and 2 interventional studies (28 in total) met the inclusion criteria, providing a total of 19,949 individuals. Forty-two subpopulations were identified, 18 of which showed elevated adiposity to be associated with tendon injury (43%). Sensitivity analyses indicated a clustering of positive findings among studies that included clinical patients (81% positive) and among case-control studies (77% positive).
Conclusion: Elevated adiposity is frequently associated with tendon injury. Published reports suggest that elevated adiposity is a risk factor for tendon injury, although this association appears to vary depending on aspects of study design and measurement. Adiposity is of particular interest in tendon research because, unlike a number of other reported risk factors for tendon injury, it is somewhat preventable and modifiable. Further research is required to determine if reducing adiposity will reduce the risk of tendon injury or improve the results of treatment.