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BACKGROUND: Eccentric exercise has been shown to provide good short-term clinical results in the treatment of painful mid-portion chronic Achilles tendinopathies. However, the mechanisms behind the positive effects of eccentric rehabilitation regimes are not known, and research into the biomechanics of the exercise may improve our understanding.
METHODS: Sixteen healthy subjects performed one-legged full weight bearing ankle plantar and dorsiflexion exercises during which three-dimensional ground reaction forces (GRF), ankle joint kinematics and surface electromyography (EMG) of the lower leg muscles were recorded. Joint kinematics, GRF frequency contents, average EMG amplitudes, and Achilles tendon loads were calculated.
FINDINGS: The eccentric movement phase was characterized by a higher GRF frequency content in the 8-12 Hz range, and reduced EMG activity in the lower leg muscles. No differences in Achilles tendon loads were found.
INTERPRETATION: This descriptive study demonstrates differences in the movement biomechanics between the eccentric and concentric phases of one-legged full weight bearing ankle dorsal and plantar flexion exercises. In particular, the findings imply that although the tendon loads are similar, the tendon is vibrated at higher frequencies during the eccentric phase than during the concentric phases. This study provides data that may explain the mechanisms behind the effectiveness of eccentric exercises used in the treatment of Achilles tendinopathies.