contributions by Joshua A. Siegel, MD and A. David Davis, MD
A recent Brown University study has shown that our tendons provide an important barrier to protect our muscles from injury. This study allows us to scientifically understand a truth that athletes have practiced for ages: proper training increases performance and prevents injury.
Tendons are the key link between the power of a muscle and its action. Injures to this important link can occur in three places. First, there may be damage to where the muscle attaches to the tendon. This area is known as the musculotendinous junction and is a common location of injury. Secondly, damage may also be sustained within the tendon fibers themselves, an injury referred to as a mid-substance tendon rupture. Lastly the tendon can be damaged at the bone – tendon interface, where the tendon tears at its insertion site and directly pulls off the bone.
These types of tendon injuries may be greatly reduced with appropriate stretching and training, which allows the tendon fibers to adjust over time to the stress of an activity. Training our tendons to appropriately respond to the rapid pull of our muscles is a key component in both protecting and strengthening the dynamic interplay between our muscles and tendons. Through functional training, stretching, and activities such as yoga we can decrease the risk of tendon ruptures. By exposing the muscles and tendons to these activities in controlled ways through flexibility exercises and strengthening, we can develop a balanced transfer from the tendon to the muscles. This preparation will better protect these more vulnerable areas from the unexpected forces that often cause injury.