Research Alert

Stiffness Matters: Reducing Achilles Tendon Injuries with Shoes and Surfaces 

Newswise — Athletes who participate in jumping sports, such as basketball and volleyball, often develop pain in their Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel. This injury, known as Achilles tendinopathy, can sideline athletes for months. If untreated, this condition may lead to a complete tear. Achilles tendinopathy occurs when the tendon is repeatedly strained (or elongated) past a certain threshold. In this study, researchers used 3-D motion capture technology to measure the amount of Achilles tendon elongation, or strain, during jumping in a group of 30 male basketball players. These athletes jumped in shoes that had different midsole stiffness and on playing surfaces with different subfloor construction. It was found that Achilles tendon strains were reduced in the least stiff shoe and on the surface with a foam subfloor; no changes in peak jump height were observed. These results indicate that playing in a less stiff shoe and on a surface with a foam subfloor may be effective in reducing the risk of Achilles tendinopathy in basketball athletes without lowering their athletic performance. View the abstract or contact the investigator.

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