Open Access Research

Viscoelastic properties of the Achilles tendon in vivo

Jussi Peltonen*, Neil J Cronin, Lauri Stenroth, Taija Finni and Janne Avela

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology of Physical Activity, Neuromuscular Research Center, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

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SpringerPlus 2013, 2:212  doi:10.1186/2193-1801-2-212

Published: 8 May 2013

Abstract

It has been postulated that human tendons are viscoelastic and their mechanical properties time-dependent. Although Achilles tendon (AT) mechanics are widely reported, there is no consensus about AT viscoelastic properties such as loading rate dependency or hysteresis, in vivo. AT force-elongation characteristics were determined from 14 subjects in an ankle dynamometer at different loading rates using motion capture assisted ultrasonography. AT stiffness and elongation were determined between 10 – 80% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) force at fast and slow loading rates. As subjects were unable to consistently match the target unloading rate in the slow condition, AT hysteresis was only calculated for the fast rate. There was a significant difference between the fast and the slow loading rates: 120 ± 6 vs. 21 ± 1% of MVC s-1 (mean ± standard error), respectively. However, neither stiffness (193 ± 18 N mm-1 vs. 207 ± 22 N mm-1) nor elongation at any force level (13.0 ± 1.2 mm vs. 14.3 ± 0.9 mm at 80% of MVC) were significantly different between the fast and slow loading rates. Tendon hysteresis at the fast rate was 5 ± 2%. As stiffness was not sensitive to loading rate and hysteresis was small, it was concluded that elastic properties prevail over viscous properties in the human AT. The current results support the idea that AT stiffness is independent of loading rate.

Keywords:
Stiffness; Hysteresis; Ultrasonography; Loading rate dependency; Medial gastrocnemius