Patellar tendinopathy in elite volleyball players is associated with degenerative tendon changes visible using ultrasound imaging, according to research from the University of Southern California.
The findings, presented in February at the APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting, suggest that an exercise intervention aimed at remodeling the affected tendon could potentially help athletes avoid future compensatory ankle and hip pathologies in addition to treating the patellar symptoms.
Researchers assessed 67 elite male volleyball players, 44 of whom had a history of patellar tendinopathy, as well as 10 non-athlete control subjects. Ultrasound images were analyzed for macro- and micro-morphology.
Macro-morphological analysis revealed that the asymptomatic athletes demonstrated thickening in the proximal aspect of the tendon compared to control subjects, which suggests a normal adaptation to repetitive loading. Symptomatic athletes, however, demonstrated thickening in the medial and distal aspects of the tendon as well, suggesting degenerative changes.
Micro-morphological analysis revealed greater collagen bundle disorganization in the proximal aspect of the tendon in the symptomatic athletes than in the other two groups, which is also suggestive of degenerative changes.