Achilles tendon loading patterns during barefoot walking and slow running on a treadmill: An ultrasonic propagation study

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Abstract

Measurement of tendon loading patterns during gait is important for understanding the pathogenesis of tendon “overuse” injury. Given that the speed of propagation of ultrasound in tendon is proportional to the applied load, this study used a noninvasive ultrasonic transmission technique to measure axial ultrasonic velocity in the right Achilles tendon of 27 healthy adults (11 females and 16 males; age, 26 ± 9 years; height, 1.73 ± 0.07 m; weight, 70.6 ± 21.2 kg), walking at self-selected speed (1.1 ± 0.1 m/s), and running at fixed slow speed (2 m/s) on a treadmill. Synchronous measures of ankle kinematics, spatiotemporal gait parameters, and vertical ground reaction forces were simultaneously measured. Slow running was associated with significantly higher cadence, shorter step length, but greater range of ankle movement, higher magnitude and rate of vertical ground reaction force, and higher ultrasonic velocity in the tendon than walking (P < 0.05). Ultrasonic velocity in the Achilles tendon was highly reproducible during walking and slow running (mean within-subject coefficient of variation < 2%). Ultrasonic maxima (P1, P2) and minima (M1, M2) were significantly higher and occurred earlier in the gait cycle (P1, M1, and M2) during running than walking (P < 0.05). Slow running was associated with higher and earlier peaks in loading of the Achilles tendon than walking.

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