Achilles Tendon Doppler Flow May Be Associated With Mechanical Loading Among Active Athletes

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Abstract

Background:

Tendon Doppler flow may be associated with tendon pain in symptomatic patients, but the relationship between Doppler flow and pain among athletes who are still competing is unclear.

Hypothesis:

Among active athletes, Doppler flow may partly reflect tendon adaptation to increased mechanical load and/or asymptomatic tendinopathy.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods:

The Achilles tendons of 61 badminton players (24 elite, 37 recreational) were examined with gray-scale and color Doppler ultrasound. Achilles tendon pain and activity level (badminton training, badminton playing, badminton years) were measured.

Results:

Doppler flow was not associated with current Achilles tendon pain but was associated with an increased anteroposterior tendon diameter (an indicator of tendinopathy) (P = .02). Athletes who had been playing badminton for longer were more likely to have Doppler flow (P < .01), and there was a trend toward an association between a greater number of badminton playing hours per week and Doppler flow (P = .07).

Conclusion:

Achilles tendon Doppler flow appears to be a sign of asymptomatic tendinopathy rather than pain among active athletes. The association between weekly badminton hours and badminton years and Doppler flow suggests that Doppler flow may be a response to mechanical load in this cohort.

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