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Altered Achilles tendon function during walking in people with diabetic neuropathy: implications for metabolic energy saving.

Petrovic, M and Maganaris, CN and Deschamps, K and Verschueren, SM and Bowling, FL and Boulton, AJ and Reeves, Neil (2018) Altered Achilles tendon function during walking in people with diabetic neuropathy: implications for metabolic energy saving. Journal of Applied Physiology, 124 (5). pp. 1333-1340. ISSN 1522-1601

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Abstract

The Achilles tendon (AT) has the capacity to store and release elastic energy during walking, contributing to metabolic energy savings. In diabetes patients, it is hypothesised that a stiffer Achilles tendon may reduce the capacity for energy saving through this mechanism, thereby contributing to an increased metabolic cost of walking (CoW). The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of diabetes and diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) on the Achilles tendon and plantarflexor muscle-tendon unit behaviour during walking. Twenty three non-diabetic controls (Ctrl); 20 diabetic patients without peripheral neuropathy (DM) and 13 patients with moderate/severe DPN, underwent gait analysis using a motion analysis system, force plates and ultrasound measurements of the gastrocnemius muscle, using a muscle model to determine Achilles tendon and muscle-tendon length changes. During walking, the DM and particularly the DPN group displayed significantly less Achilles tendon elongation (Ctrl: 1.81; DM 1.66; DPN: 1.54 cm), higher tendon stiffness (Ctrl: 210; DM: 231; DPN: 240 N/mm) and higher tendon hysteresis (Ctrl: 18; DM: 21; DPN: 24 %) compared to controls. The muscle fascicles of the gastrocnemius underwent very small length changes in all groups during walking (~0.43cm), with the smallest length changes in the DPN group. Achilles tendon forces were significantly lower in the diabetes groups compared to controls (Ctrl: 2666; DM: 2609; DPN: 2150 N). The results strongly point towards the reduced energy saving capacity of the Achilles tendon during walking in diabetes patients as an important factor contributing to the increased metabolic CoW in these patients.

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