Altered Gastrocnemius Contractile Behavior in Former Achilles Tendon Rupture Patients During Walking

Benjamin Stäudle*, Olivier Seynnes, Guido Laps, Gert-Peter Brüggemann, Kirsten Albracht

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review

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Achilles tendon rupture (ATR) remains associated with functional limitations years after injury. Architectural remodeling of the gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle is typically observed in the affected leg and may compensate force deficits caused by a longer tendon. Yet patients seem to retain functional limitations during—low-force—walking gait. To explore the potential limits imposed by the remodeled GM muscle-tendon unit (MTU) on walking gait, we examined the contractile behavior of muscle fascicles during the stance phase. In a cross-sectional design, we studied nine former patients (males; age: 45 ± 9 years; height: 180 ± 7 cm; weight: 83 ± 6 kg) with a history of complete unilateral ATR, approximately 4 years post-surgery. Using ultrasonography, GM tendon morphology, muscle architecture at rest, and fascicular behavior were assessed during walking at 1.5 m⋅s–1 on a treadmill. Walking patterns were recorded with a motion capture system. The unaffected leg served as control. Lower limbs kinematics were largely similar between legs during walking. Typical features of ATR-related MTU remodeling were observed during the stance sub-phases corresponding to series elastic element (SEE) lengthening (energy storage) and SEE shortening (energy release), with shorter GM fascicles (36 and 36%, respectively) and greater pennation angles (8° and 12°, respectively). However, relative to the optimal fascicle length for force production, fascicles operated at comparable length in both legs. Similarly, when expressed relative to optimal fascicle length, fascicle contraction velocity was not different between sides, except at the time-point of peak series elastic element (SEE) length, where it was 39 ± 49% lower in the affected leg. Concomitantly, fascicles rotation during contraction was greater in the affected leg during the whole stance-phase, and architectural gear ratios (AGR) was larger during SEE lengthening. Under the present testing conditions, former ATR patients had recovered a relatively symmetrical walking gait pattern. Differences in seen AGR seem to accommodate the profound changes in MTU architecture, limiting the required fascicle shortening velocity. Overall, the contractile behavior of the GM fascicles does not restrict length- or velocity-dependent force potentials during this locomotor task.
Original languageEnglish
Article number792576
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2022

Research areas and keywords

  • force generation
  • muscle fascicle behavior
  • tendon rupture
  • ultrasound imaging
  • walking gait


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