Load magnitude affects patellar tendon mechanical properties but not collagen or collagen cross-linking after long-term strength training in older adults

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Background: Regular loading of tendons may counteract the negative effects of aging. However, the influence of strength training loading magnitude on tendon mechanical properties and its relation to matrix collagen content and collagen cross-linking is sparsely described in older adults. The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of moderate or high load resistance training on tendon matrix and its mechanical properties. Methods: Seventeen women and 19 men, age 62-70 years, were recruited and randomly allocated to 12 months of heavy load resistance training (HRT), moderate load resistance training (MRT) or control (CON). Pre- and post-intervention testing comprised isometric quadriceps strength test (IsoMVC), ultrasound based testing of in vivo patellar tendon (PT) mechanical properties, MRI-based measurement of PT cross-sectional area (CSA), PT biopsies for assessment of fibril morphology, collagen content, enzymatic cross-links, and tendon fluorescence as a measure of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). Results: Thirty three participants completed the intervention and were included in the data analysis. IsoMVC increased more after HRT (+ 21%) than MRT (+ 8%) and CON (+ 7%) (p < 0.05). Tendon stiffness (p < 0.05) and Young's modulus (p = 0.05) were also differently affected by training load with a reduction in CON and MRT but not in HRT. PT-CSA increased equally after both MRT and HRT. Collagen content, fibril morphology, enzymatic cross-links, and tendon fluorescence were unaffected by training. Conclusion: Despite equal improvements in tendon size after moderate and heavy load resistance training, only heavy. load training seemed to maintain tendon mechanical properties in old age. The effect of load magnitude on tendon biomechanics was unrelated to changes of major load bearing matrix components in the tendon core. The study is a sub-study of the LISA study, which was registered at http://clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02123641) April 25th 2014.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

    Research areas

  • Aging., Collagen cross-links., Strength training., Tendon biomechanics

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