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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Sep;105(3):805-10. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.90361.2008. Epub 2008 Jun 12.

Habitual loading results in tendon hypertrophy and increased stiffness of the human patellar tendon.

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Institute of Sports Medicine Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Hospital Bispebjerg bakke 23, 2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark.


The purpose of this study was to examine patellar tendon (PT) size and mechanical properties in subjects with a side-to-side strength difference of > or =15% due to sport-induced loading. Seven elite fencers and badminton players were included. Cross-sectional area (CSA) of the PT obtained from MRI and ultrasonography-based measurement of tibial and patellar movement together with PT force during isometric contractions were used to estimate mechanical properties of the PT bilaterally. We found that distal tendon and PT, but not mid-tendon, CSA were greater on the lead extremity compared with the nonlead extremity (distal: 139 +/- 11 vs. 116 +/- 7 mm(2); mid-tendon: 85 +/- 5 vs. 77 +/- 3 mm(2); proximal: 106 +/- 7 vs. 83 +/- 4 mm(2); P < 0.05). Distal tendon CSA was greater than proximal and mid-tendon CSA on both the lead and nonlead extremity (P < 0.05). For a given common force, stress was lower on the lead extremity (52.9 +/- 4.8 MPa) compared with the nonlead extremity (66.0 +/- 8.0 MPa; P < 0.05). PT stiffness was also higher in the lead extremity (4,766 +/- 716 N/mm) compared with the nonlead extremity (3,494 +/- 446 N/mm) (P < 0.05), whereas the modulus did not differ (lead 2.27 +/- 0.27 GPa vs. nonlead 2.16 +/- 0.28 GPa) at a common force. These data show that a habitual loading is associated with a significant increase in PT size and mechanical properties.

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