Background: The recent use of ultrasound elastography to study patellar tendon softness has demonstrated increased tendon softness in high-level athletes. We hypothesized that measurable alterations in patellar tendon softness may be present in young asymptomatic subjects engaging in moderate levels of physical activity. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. Gray-scale ultrasound and ultrasound elastography of the right and left patellar tendons were performed in young asymptomatic sedentary subjects and moderately active subjects who engaged in at least 30 min of physical activity 4–5 times weekly. The distribution of soft, intermediate and stiff tissue within each tendon was analyzed. Tendon softness was correlated with subject age, gender and level of athletic activity. Results: Sixty patellar tendons in 30 subjects were evaluated (18 males, 12 females, mean age 22.5 years). Seventeen subjects were defined as “active” and 13 as “sedentary.” All tendons had a normal gray-scale sonographic appearance. Tendon softness was significantly higher in active subjects (P = 0.01) and decreased with age (P = 0.04). In sedentary individuals there was no significant correlation between age and tendon softness (P = 0.404). Similarly, gender showed no correlation with tendon softness (P > 0.05). Conclusions: Patellar tendon softness is higher in young subjects and in those engaging in moderate physical activity. This may reflect an adaptation to increased tendon load. Tendon softness in active subjects decreases with age, while it remains at a constant value in sedentary individuals. Level of evidence: Level 3.
- Patellar tendon
- Ultrasound elastography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging