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    Mechanical properties of the patellar tendon in adults and children.

    O'Brien, Thomas D., Reeves, Neil D., Baltzopoulos, Vasilios, Jones, David A. and Maganaris, Constantinos N. (2010) Mechanical properties of the patellar tendon in adults and children. Journal of biomechanics, 43 (6). pp. 1190-5. ISSN 0021-9290

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    It is not currently known how the mechanical properties of human tendons change with maturation in the two sexes. To address this, the stiffness and Young's modulus of the patellar tendon were measured in men, women, boys and girls (each group, n=10). Patellar tendon force (F(pt)) was calculated from the measured joint moment during a ramped voluntary isometric knee extension contraction, the antagonist knee extensor muscle co-activation quantified from its electromyographical activity, and the patellar tendon moment arm measured from magnetic resonance images. Tendon elongation was imaged using the sagittal-plane ultrasound scans throughout the contraction. Tendon cross-sectional area was measured at rest from ultrasound scans in the transverse plane. Maximal F(pt) and tendon elongation were (mean+/-SE) 5453+/-307 N and 5+/-0.5 mm for men, 3877+/-307 N and 4.9+/-0.6 mm for women, 2017+/-170 N and 6.2+/-0.5 mm for boys and 2169+/-182 N and 5.9+/-0.7 mm for girls. In all groups, tendon stiffness and Young's modulus were examined at the level that corresponded to the maximal 30% of the weakest participant's F(pt) and stress, respectively; these were 925-1321 N and 11.5-16.5 MPa, respectively. Stiffness was 94% greater in men than boys and 84% greater in women than girls (p<0.01), with no differences between men and women, or boys and girls (men 1076+/-87 N/mm; women 1030+/-139 N/mm; boys 555+/-71 N/mm and girls 561.5+/-57.4 N/mm). Young's modulus was 99% greater in men than boys (p<0.01), and 66% greater in women than girls (p<0.05). There were no differences in modulus between men and women, or boys and girls (men 597+/-49 MPa; women 549+/-70 MPa; boys 255+/-42 MPa and girls 302+/-33 MPa). These findings indicate that the mechanical stiffness of tendon increases with maturation due to an increased Young's modulus and, in females due to a greater increase in tendon cross-sectional area than tendon length.

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