Tendinous tissues respond to chronic unloading with adaptive changes in mechanical, elastic, and morphological properties. However, little is known about the changes in the detailed structures of the entire tendinous tissue and whether the change in tendon stiffness is related to morphology. We investigated changes in dimensional (volume, cross-sectional area, segmented lengths) and elastic (Young's modulus) properties of the Achilles tendon and distal aponeurosis in response to chronic unilateral lower limb suspension (ULLS) using velocity encoded phase contrast (VE-PC) and three-dimensional morphometric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Five healthy subjects underwent ULLS for 4 weeks. Axial morphometric MRI was acquired along the entire length from the calcaneous to the medial gastrocnemius insertion. An oblique sagittal VE-PC MRI was also acquired. The Young's modulus could be calculated from this cine dynamic sequence of velocity encoded images from the slope of the stress-strain curve during the submaximal isometric plantar flexion. After 4 weeks of ULLS, we found significant (46.7%) decrease in maximum plantar flexion torque. The total volumes of entire tendinous tissue (determined as the sum of the Achilles tendon and distal aponeurosis) increased significantly by 6.4% (11.9 vs. 12.7 cm3) after ULLS. In contrast, Young's modulus decreased significantly by 10.4% (211.7 vs. 189.6 MPa) for the Achilles tendon and 29.0% for the distal aponeurosis (158.8 vs. 113.0 MPa) following ULLS. There was no significant correlation between relative change in volume and Young's modulus with 4 weeks ULLS. It is suggested that although tendon hypertrophy can be expected to adversely affect tendon stiffness, the absence of any significant correlation between the magnitude of tendon hypertrophy and reduced Young's modulus indicates that dimensional factors were not critical to the elastic properties.
- Young's modulus
- Copyright © 2010, Journal of Applied Physiology