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A Multi-modality Approach Towards Elucidation of the Mechanism for Human Achilles Tendon Bending During Passive Ankle Rotation


The in vitro unconstrained Achilles tendon is nearly straight, while in vivo experiments reveal that the proximal region of the Achilles tendon, adjacent to Kager's fat pad, bends ventrally during plantarflexion but remains nearly straight during dorsiflexion. Tendon bending is an important factor in determining the displacement of the foot compared to the shortening of the muscle fibers. The objective of this study was to elucidate the various mechanisms that could cause tendon bending, which currently remain unknown. Examination of Thiel-embalmed cadavers, with preservation of native articular joint mobility, revealed that the Achilles tendon still bent ventrally even when its surrounding tissues, including the skin surface, Kager's fat pad, and distal portions of the soleus muscle were removed. Shear modulus and collagen fiber orientation were distributed homogeneously with respect to the longitudinal line of the tendon, minimizing their causative contributions to the bending. Given that tendon bending is not caused by either the nature of the deformations of the tissues surrounding the Achilles tendon or its physical properties, we conclude that it results from the geometric architecture of the Achilles tendon and its configuration with respect to the surrounding tissues.

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