Effects of prolonged running on Achilles tendon properties were assessed after a 60 min treadmill run and 140 min intermittent shuttle running (simulated cricket batting innings). Before and after exercise, 11 participants performed ramp-up plantar flexions to maximum-voluntary-contraction before gradual relaxation. Muscle-tendon-junction displacement was measured with ultrasonography. Tendon force was estimated using dynamometry and a musculoskeletal model. Gradients of the ramp-up force-displacement curves fitted between 0–40% and 50–90% of the preexercise maximal force determined stiffness in the low- and high-force-range, respectively. Hysteresis was determined using the ramp-up and relaxation force-displacement curves and elastic energy storage from the area under the ramp-up curve. In simulated batting, correlations between tendon properties and shuttle times were also assessed. After both protocols, Achilles tendon force decreased (4% to 5%, P < .050), but there were no changes in stiffness, hysteresis, or elastic energy. In simulated batting, Achilles tendon force and stiffness were both correlated to mean turn and mean sprint times (r = −0.719 to −0.830, P < .050). Neither protocol resulted in fatigue-related changes in tendon properties, but higher tendon stiffness and plantar flexion force were related to faster turn and sprint times, possibly by improving force transmission and control of movement when decelerating and accelerating.
Laurence Houghton (Corresponding Author), Brian Dawson, and Jonas Rubenson are with the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.