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J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2006 Apr-Jun;6(2):174-80.

Adaptation of the tendon to mechanical usage.

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Institute for Biophysical and Clinical Research into Human Movement, Manchester Metropolitan University, MMU Cheshire, Alsager Campus, Alsager, UK.


Tendons primarily function as contractile force transmitters, but their mechanical properties may change dependent upon their level of mechanical usage. Using an ultrasound-based technique we have assessed tendon mechanical properties in vivo in a number of conditions representing different levels of mechanical usage. Ageing alters tendon mechanical properties; stiffness and modulus were lower in older adults by 10 and 14%, respectively, compared to young adults. Increased levels of exercise loading in old age can however partly reverse this process, as tendon stiffness and modulus were found to increase by 65 and 69%, respectively. Complete unloading due to bed rest or spinal cord injury both reduce tendon stiffness and modulus, however, only chronic unloading due to spinal cord injury seems to cause tendon atrophy. Alterations in tendon mechanical properties due to changes in the levels loading have implications for the speed of force transmission, the muscle's operating range and the likelihood of tendon strain injury.

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