Objective: To investigate the acute effects of isolated eccentric and concentric calf muscle exercise on Achilles tendon sagittal thickness.
Design: Within-subject, counterbalanced, mixed design.
Participants: 11 healthy, recreationally active male adults.
Interventions: Participants performed an exercise protocol, which involved isolated eccentric loading of the Achilles tendon of a single limb and isolated concentric loading of the contralateral, both with the addition of 20% bodyweight.
Main outcome measurements: Sagittal sonograms were acquired prior to, immediately following and 3, 6, 12 and 24 h after exercise. Tendon thickness was measured 2 cm proximal to the superior aspect of the calcaneus.
Results: Both loading conditions resulted in an immediate decrease in normalised Achilles tendon thickness. Eccentric loading induced a significantly greater decrease than concentric loading despite a similar impulse (−0.21 vs −0.05, p<0.05). Post-exercise, eccentrically loaded tendons recovered exponentially, with a recovery time constant of 2.5 h. The same exponential function did not adequately model changes in tendon thickness resulting from concentric loading. Even so, recovery pathways subsequent to the 3 h time point were comparable. Regardless of the exercise protocol, full tendon thickness recovery was not observed until 24 h.
Conclusions: Eccentric loading invokes a greater reduction in Achilles tendon thickness immediately after exercise but appears to recover fully in a similar time frame to concentric loading.
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