OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of morphological and mechanical stiffness alterations at the mid Achilles tendon in asymptomatic marathon runners before and after a competition. To assess the relationship between pre-existing Achilles tendon alterations and pain after running. MATERIALS AND METHODS: All marathon runners from a local running club who were participating in the Melbourne Marathon 2013 (full marathon category) were invited for conventional ultrasound and sonoelastography 1 week leading up to the marathon and again within 3 days post-marathon. Another group of active, healthy individuals not involved in running activities were recruited as controls. Intratendinous morphological (tendon thickness, hypoechogenicities), Doppler as well as stiffness properties of the Achilles were recorded. Achilles tendon pain was evaluated using the visual analogue scale (VAS) and Victorian Institute of Sports Assessment-Achilles (VISA-A). RESULTS: Twenty-one asymptomatic runners (42 Achilles tendons) and 20 healthy controls (40 Achilles tendons) were examined. On the pre-marathon evaluation, runners showed significantly more morphological changes on B-mode ultrasound compared to the controls (p <0.001). Marathon running induced a significant reduction in tendon stiffness (p = 0.049) and an increase in Doppler signals (p = 0.036). Four runners (4/21, 19 ) reported Achilles tendon pain after the race [VAS 4.0 (+/-1.9), VISA 74.2 (+/-10.1)]. Reduced tendon stiffness at baseline was associated with post-marathon Achilles tendon pain (p = 0.016). CONCLUSION: Marathon runners demonstrate a higher prevalence of morphological alterations compared to non-runners. Marathon running caused a significant change in Achilles tendon stiffness and Doppler signals. Pre-existing soft Achilles tendon properties on sonoelastography may be a predisposing risk for development of symptoms post-running.
- Elasticity imaging techniques
- Achilles tendon
- Marathon runners