Study Design: Case-control laboratory study.
Objectives: To compare tendon characteristics (shape, composition) and mechanical properties (strain, stiffness) on the involved side of participants with insertional Achilles tendinopathy (IAT) to the uninvolved side and to controls, and to examine if severity of tendon pathology is associated with severity of symptoms during function.
Background: Despite the severity and chronicity of IAT, the quality of theoretical evidence available to guide the development of exercise interventions is low. While tendon pathology of midportion Achilles tendinopathy has been described, there are few studies specific to IAT.
Methods: Twenty individuals with unilateral IAT and 20 age- and sex-matched controls volunteered to participate. Ultrasound imaging was used to quantify changes in tendon shape (diameter) and composition (echogenicity). A combination of ultrasound and dynamometry was used to measure tendon mechanical properties (strain and stiffness) during passive ankle rotation toward dorsiflexion. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine the association between IAT, alterations in tendon properties, and participant demographics. Pearson correlation was used to examine the association between severity of tendon pathology and severity of symptoms (Victorian Institute of Sport Assessment-Achilles).
Results: The side with IAT had a larger tendon diameter (P<.001), lower echogenicity (P<.001), higher strain (P = .011), and lower stiffness (P = .007) compared to the side without IAT and the controls. On the involved side of participants with IAT, a lower echogenicity correlated with higher severity of symptoms (r = 0.603, P = .010).
Conclusion: Ultrasound imaging combined with dynamometry can discriminate alterations in tendon shape, composition, and mechanics in participants with IAT. Future clinical trials for IAT may consider strategies to alter tendon characteristics and restore tendon mechanics
Previously published in Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2014; 44(9): 680-689. Epub 7 August 2014. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5369 http://www.jospt.org/