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Comparison of viscoelastic characteristics in triceps surae between Black and White athletes

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The purpose of the present study was to investigate race differences in viscoelastic characteristics of triceps surae muscle group. Black and white college sprint type athletes (n=44) participated in this study. Viscoelastic properties were assessed using the free vibration technique: subjects sat with their forefeet on the edge of a force-plate (Kistler, Switzerland) and support a frame loaded with weights (0–40 kg) on the knees. Oscillations of the triceps surae and Achilles tendon system were initiated with a hand-held hammer by tapping the weight load. Oscillations occur at frequencies of 3–6 Hz and were slightly damped. The damped oscillations in conjunction with the equation of motion of a damped mass-spring model were used to calculate the viscosity of muscle (b), and the elasticity of muscle fibres (kd) and tendon (kt) in each subject. There were little significant differences in most of physical characteristic variables between black and white athletes. Black athletes have significantly greater muscle viscosity and elasticity than white athletes while tendon elasticity is equivalent. Thus, muscle stiffness is greater among black athletes. Greater muscle stiffness could contribute to greater sprint/jump performance among black athletes, compared with white athletes, through alteration of foot/ground contact and take-off phases during sprinting/jumping.
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Keywords: free vibration technique; muscle-tendon complex; race difference; visco-elasticity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, 2: Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tokyo, Japan, 3: Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA

Publication date: 01 July 2002

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