Gender differences in the viscoelastic properties of tendon structures
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in the viscoelastic properties of human tendon structures (tendon and aponeurosis) in the medial gastrocnemius muscle between men (n=16) and women (n=13). The elongation of the tendon and aponeurosis of the medial gastrocnemius muscle was measured directly by ultrasonography, while the subjects performed ramp isometric plantar flexion up to the voluntary maximum, followed by a ramp relaxation. The relationship between the estimated muscle force (Fm) and tendon elongation (L) during the ascending phase was fitted to a linear regression, the slope of which was defined as stiffness. The percentage of the area within the Fm-L loop to the area beneath the curve during the ascending phase was calculated as hysteresis. The L values at force production levels beyond 50 N were significantly greater for women than for men. The maximum strain (100×ΔL/initial tendon length) was significantly greater in women [9.5 (1.1)%] than in men [8.1 (1.6)%]. The stiffness and Young's modulus were significantly lower in women [16.5 (3.4) N/mm, 277 (25) MPa] than in men [25.9 (7.0) N/mm, 356 (32) MPa]. Furthermore, the hysteresis was significantly lower in women [11.1 (5.9)%] than in men [18.7 (8.5)%, P=0.048]. These results suggest that there are gender differences in the viscoelastic properties of tendon structures and that these might in part account for previously observed performance differences between the genders.
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