Tendinopathies of the achilles- or patellartendon are common overuse unjuries in sports including high numbers of repetitive stretch-shortening-cycles of the lower limb. Possible alterations of the neuromuscular response (NMR) to physical stress and functionally justified therapies with potential positive effects are currently unknown.
The aim of the study was therefore the analysis of the neuromuscular response in situations with physical stress in athletes with tendinopathie of the achilles or patellartendon compared to symptom free athletes. In addition, possible functional and therapeutic effects of a sensorimotor training were studied in a prospective, randomized and controlled study. 51 athletes with unilateral tendinopathy (achilles-/patellartendon n=35/16) and 33 healthy athletes were included to assess the stress related neuromuscular response (NMR). To clarify the effects of a sensorimotor training 26 athletes with tendinopathy were randomized to a control group (n=14) and a therapy group with sensorimotor training (n=12). After initial biomechanical measurements M1 (situations: running, active postural stability and maximum strength test) and the collection of subjective complaints (pain) an 8-week treatment phase followed with a final re-test M2 measure identical to M1. The sensorimotor training was arranged for the entire lower extremity, and was checked after an initial briefing on a regular basis. The assessment of the NMR was quantified by muscle activity (EMG). In addition, the kinetics (e.g. maximum force) was acquired in the stabilization and maximum strength test.
A reduced NMR could be proven for athletes with tendinopathy with changed EMG time and amplitude measurements, a reduced active postural stabilization ability and reduced maximum strength (p <0.05). No relevant differences could be observed in comparing localization (achilles-/patellartendon) and side (leg with complains/healthy leg). The sensorimotor training showed an optimization of NMR (e.g. increased maximum strength) for patient with tendinopathy of the achilles- or patellartendon. The examination of the complaints showed reduced values in all pain scores after therapy. The treatment had therefore positive therapeutic effects compared to the control group. In summary, a systematically reduced NMR in running, stabilization and strength tests are evident for athletes with tendinopathy. The sensorimotor training can be considered as an efficient treatment with functional and therapeutic effects.