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, 28 (3), 1159-1165

Applying Physical Science Principles to Mid-Substance Achilles Tendinopathy and the Relationship to Eccentric Lengthening Exercises

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Applying Physical Science Principles to Mid-Substance Achilles Tendinopathy and the Relationship to Eccentric Lengthening Exercises

G M Verrall et al. Scand J Med Sci Sports.

Abstract

Mid-substance Achilles tendinopathy is common in the active population. Eccentric (lengthening) exercises are known to be effective in alleviating the clinical condition. To better understand mid-substance Achilles tendinopathy and the response to lengthening exercises physical science principles of elasticity are applied. We apply elastic motion laws to the spring-like tendon as well as the normal and pathological adaptation seen with this common injury. We will validate important assumptions of the spring-like behavior of the tendon and then apply these findings to the injured and rehabilitating states. Our analysis considers that the tendon can be viewed as being spring-like with elasticity principles being applicable and the force exerted on the tendon during lengthening is primarily in a uniaxial direction. This applied lengthening force results in tendon mechanical and structural adaptation. Injury, and ultimately the clinical condition, occurs when the applied force exceeds the ability of the tendon to normally adapt. Morphological changes of the injured tendon are an attempt by the body to make the tendon more compliant. Lengthening exercises can be assessed as achieving this task with an improvement of tendon compliance. Physical science analysis proposes that the preferred rehabilitation tendon pathway is to try and decrease tendon stiffness to allow for more tendon lengthening. The body's morphological alterations of the pathological tendon are also consistent with this approach. For mid-substance Achilles tendinopathy, this adaptation of decreased stiffness ultimately increases the tendons ability to withstand applied force during lengthening.

Keywords: Achilles tendinopathy; eccentric exercises; lengthening; physical science principles.

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