Conditioning of the Achilles tendon via ankle exercise improves correlations between sonographic measures of tendon thickness and body anthropometry
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Although conditioning is routinely used in mechanical tests of tendon in vitro, previous in vivo research evaluating the influence of body anthropometry on Achilles tendon thickness has not considered its potential effects on tendon structure. This study evaluated the relationship between Achilles tendon thickness and body anthropometry in healthy adults both before and after resistive ankle plantarflexion exercise. A convenience sample of 30 healthy male adults underwent sonographic examination of the Achilles tendon in addition to standard anthropometric measures of stature and body weight. A 10-5 MHz linear array transducer was used to acquire longitudinal sonograms of the Achilles tendon, 20 mm proximal to the tendon insertion. Participants then completed a series (90-100 repetitions) of conditioning exercises against an effective resistance between 100% and 150% body weight. Longitudinal sonograms were repeated immediately on completion of the exercise intervention, and anteroposterior Achilles tendon thickness was determined. Achilles tendon thickness was significantly reduced immediately following conditioning exercise (t = 9.71, P < 0.001), resulting in an average transverse strain of -18.8%. In contrast to preexercise measures, Achilles tendon thickness was significantly correlated with body weight (r = 0.72, P < 0.001) and to a lesser extent height (r = 0.45, P < 0.01) and body mass index (r = 0.63, P < 0.001) after exercise. Conditioning of the Achilles tendon via resistive ankle exercises induces alterations in tendon structure that substantially improve correlations between Achilles tendon thickness and body anthropometry. It is recommended that conditioning exercises, which standardize the load history of tendon, are employed before measurements of sonographic tendon thickness in vivo.
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