Overload and neovascularization of Achilles tendons in young artistic and rhythmic gymnasts compared with controls: an observational study

Musculoskelet Surg. 2014 Aug;98(2):115-20. doi: 10.1007/s12306-013-0275-y. Epub 2013 May 29.


The incidence of Achilles tendinopathy is very high in young female gymnasts (17.5 %). According to literature, ecography screenings show the tendons thickening, but at the same time it does not reveal a direct link to the clinical picture. The neovessels are involved in the pathophysiological process of Achilles tendinopathy. For this reason, we wanted to verify there between perfusion tendon values and the type of sport activity. We performed a clinical observational study monitoring the oximetry of the Achilles tendon and the epidemiological data of 52 elite female (artistic and rhythmic) gymnasts versus 21 age-matched controls. Analyzing the main limb, we revealed statistically higher oximetry values in the artistic gymnasts group (69.5 %) compared to the rhythmic gymnasts group (67.1 %) (t = 2.13; p = 0.01) and the sedentary group (66.2 %) (t = 2.70; p = 0.004), but we did not find any differences between rhythmic gymnasts group and the sedentary group (t = 0.68; p = 0.24). The multiple logistic regression model highlighted that the oximetry value of the main limb is not influenced by age, knowledge of the main limb, years of general and gymnastic sports activity (p > 0.05). We discovered an increase of Achilles tendon perfusion in the main limb in the artistic gymnast group. We hypothesize that specific figures of artistic sports activity are responsible for muscle overload and gastrocnemius-soleus group and, at the same time, these figures cause hyperperfusion of the tendon. Prospective longitudinal studies could explain if this could become a predictive sign of the next Achilles tendinopathy onset.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / blood supply*
  • Achilles Tendon / injuries*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gymnastics / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic*
  • Weight-Bearing