The strongest tendon in the human body is the Achilles tendon. Did you know, it can bear loads exceeding over 900 kilograms? However, despite its strength, this tendon is prone to injuries and unfortunately, it is still not well known exactly what factors predict healing potential from injuries.
Studies have been done to try and measure the Achilles tendon. It was found that force-load on the tendon may not be distributed evenly throughout the entire cross-sectional area of the tendon. It is believed that this is due to the fact that the Achilles tendon serves as a common tendon for three calf muscles, each of which have different properties and functions.
One muscle, the soleus muscle, extends and flexes only the ankle joint. But another muscle, the gastrocnemius muscle, also flexes the knee. Due to this, different parts of the Achilles tendon may move in relation to each other. The investigation of movements within the Achilles tendon helps to understand its normal and abnormal function and give insight on research related to tendon injuries.
Professor of Kinesiology Taija Juutinen Finni from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, together with international collaborators, has studied Achilles tendon function. The research results were published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and showed for the first time that relative movements within the tendon were associated with the underlying tendon anatomy. Further, the study found that loading the soleus muscle lengthens its respective subtendon more than when loading the gastrocnemius muscle. The results indicate that the subtendons have different stiffness.
Vascular studies, some published by Dr. Carol Frey, on tendons around the ankle reveal that there is a predictable area of decreased vascularity in the Achilles tendon. It is about 6 to 10 cm up from the insertion of the tendon on the back of the heel and happens to be where most tendinosis and ruptures of the Achilles tendon occur. The decreased vascularity may contribute to a decreased repair process once the tendon is injured or overloaded.
Dr. Frey of the West Coast Center for Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine helps patients of all ages and lifestyles repair injuries to the Achilles tendon with a wide range of treatment options. The treatment that is right for you depends on the specifics of your injury. Please contact Dr. Frey’s office today for a consultation.