Elasticity of tendon structures of the lower limbs in sprinters
The present study aims to investigate the elasticity of tendon structures of the lower limbs in sprinters and its relation with sprint performance. Subjects were 10 male sprinters and 14 controls whose anthropometric variables and isometric maximum strength were similar. The elongation (L) of the tendon and aponeurosis of vastus lateralis (VL) and medial gastrocnemius muscles (MG) during isometric knee extension and planter flexion, respectively, were determined using a real-time ultrasonic apparatus in vivo, while the subjects developed a gradually increasing torque from zero (relax) to maximal effort (MVC) within 5 s. While sprinters compared with controls showed significantly greater L above 500 N (about 50% of MVC) and higher dL/dF for VL at less than 20% of MVC during knee extension, there were no significant differences between the two groups in L and dL/dF for MG at every 10% of MVC during plantar flexion. Moreover, the average value of dL/dF above 50% of MVC, proposed as the compliance of tendon structures, did not significantly differ between sprinters and controls in either VL or MG. In a regression analysis within sprinters, the compliance of VL was negatively correlated to 100-m sprint time, r=-0.757 (P < 0.05), but that of MG was not, r=0.228 (P > 0.05). Thus the present results indicate that the elasticity of tendon structures of VL and MG at high force production levels, which might be assumed to associate with the storage and subsequent release of energy during exercises involving the stretch-shortening cycle, are similar in both sprinters and controls. For sprinters, however, the tendon structures of VL are more compliant than that for controls at low force production levels, and its elasticity at high force production levels may influence sprint performance.