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Creep and the in vivo assessment of human patellar tendon mechanical properties.

Pearson, Stephen J.; Burgess, Katherine; Onambele, Gladys N.L.


Stephen J. Pearson

Gladys N.L. Onambele


Owing to the viscoelastic nature of tendons it may be that the total excursion and hence strain experienced by the tendon under load may be affected by the duration of contraction. Here we examine the effect of contraction duration on the measured in vivo mechanical properties of the patellar tendon. Nine healthy young men aged 21 (SEM 0.5 years) performed three short (3–4 s) and three long (10–12 s) maximal ramped isometric contractions on an isokinetic dynamometer, with real-time recordings of patellar excursions using B-mode ultrasonography synchronised with forces to determine tendon mechanical properties. Maximal patellar excursion was ~42% (P < 0.001, effect size (r) = 0.9) lower for the short 3.6 (SEM 0.4 mm) vs. the long 6.2 (SEM 0.4 mm) contractions. Similarly, across the range of forces tested, strain was ~42% (P < 0.001, r = 0.9) lower for the short vs. the long contractions 4.5 (SEM 0.5) vs. 8.0 (SEM 0.9%), respectively. Tendon stiffness however, was ∼77% greater (4648 SEM 434 vs. 2633 SEM 257 N mm−1, P < 0.001, r = 0.9) for short vs. long contractions. Contraction duration significantly affects tendon strain and associated measures of stiffness at all levels of force. The implications of this finding are twofold in that the results: (a) indicate that in order to compare tendon mechanical properties within or across studies, duration of contraction must be standardised and (b) have possible implications on training protocols and associated injury risks.


PEARSON, S.J., BURGESS, K. and ONAMBELE, G.N.L. 2007. Creep and the in vivo assessment of human patellar tendon mechanical properties. Clinical biomechanics [online], 22(6), pages 712-717. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 20, 2007
Online Publication Date Apr 6, 2007
Publication Date Jul 31, 2007
Deposit Date Sep 4, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2024
Journal Clinical biomechanics
Print ISSN 0268-0033
Electronic ISSN 1879-1271
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 6
Pages 712-717
Keywords Creep; Patella tendon; Viscoelasticity
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