Clark WH and Franz JR. Do triceps surae muscle dynamics govern non-uniform Achilles tendon tissue displacements? PeerJ (In press).
Abstract. The human Achilles tendon (AT) consists of sub-tendons arising from the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles that exhibit non-uniform tissue displacements thought to facilitate some independent actuation. However, the mechanisms governing non-uniform displacement patterns within the AT, and their relevance to triceps surae muscle contractile dynamics, have remained elusive. We used a dual-probe ultrasound imaging approach to investigate triceps surae muscle dynamics (i.e., medial gastrocnemius-GAS, soleus-SOL) as a determinant of non-uniform tendon tissue displacements in the human AT. We hypothesized that superficial versus deep differences in AT tissue displacements would be accompanied by and correlate with anatomically consistent differences in GAS versus SOL muscle shortening. Nine subjects performed ramped isometric contractions at each of five ankle joint angles spanning 10° dorsiflexion to 30° plantarflexion. For all conditions, SOL shortened by an average of 78% more than GAS during moment generation. This was accompanied by, on average, 51% more displacement in the deep versus superficial region of the AT. The magnitude of GAS and SOL muscle shortening positively correlated with displacement in their associated sub-tendons within the AT. Moreover, and as hypothesized, superficial versus deep differences in sub-tendon tissue displacements positively correlated with anatomically consistent differences in GAS versus SOL muscle shortening. We present the first in vivo evidence that triceps surae muscle dynamics may precipitate non-uniform displacement patterns in the architecturally complex AT.