Quantifying proximal patellar tendon changes during adolescence in elite ballet dancers, a 2-year study

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018 Nov;28(11):2369-2374. doi: 10.1111/sms.13235. Epub 2018 Jul 4.


Patellar tendon pathology appears to develop in young athletes. It is not known how this tendon develops through adolescence. This longitudinal study investigated proximal patellar tendon development during the adolescent growth spurt in young ballet dancers and identified whether puberty (estimated by maturity offset) had an effect on tendon development. Fifty two dancers (32 female and 20 male dancers, ages 11-18 at baseline) had ultrasound images of their tendons every 6 months for 2 years. Changes in tendon size (anterior-posterior diameter) on grayscale images and echogenicity, as quantified using ultrasound tissue characterization, were recorded each time. Maturity offset was calculated used to estimate peak height velocity (adolescent growth spurt). Maturity offset did not affect effect tendon composition before peak height velocity; however, after participants passed peak height velocity, maturity offset increased the composition of stable echopattern (P < .05): a 4% differential increase in type I echopattern, indicative of normal tendon structure, and a decrease in type III echopattern (more disorganized echopattern) by 0.7% per year. Anterior-posterior thickness increased by 0.2 mm/y (P < .05) measured 2 cm below the patella. Following peak height velocity, the proximal patellar tendon attachment increased in thickness and demonstrated a more stable echopattern representative of aligned fibrillar structure. Future research is required to further understand this normal maturation and the factors that support this process, with the aim of reducing the development of patellar tendon pathology in the adolescent jumping athlete.

Keywords: peak height velocity; tendon development; ultrasound tissue characterization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry
  • Athletes
  • Child
  • Dancing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Patellar Ligament / anatomy & histology*
  • Patellar Ligament / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography