Asymptomatic Achilles tendon pathology is associated with a central fat distribution in men and a peripheral fat distribution in women

A cross sectional study of 298 individuals

James E. Gaida, Håkan Alfredson, Zoltan Steven Kiss, Shona L Bass, Jill L. Cook

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Background. Adiposity is a modifiable factor that has been implicated in tendinopathy. As tendon pain reduces physical activity levels and can lead to weight gain, associations between tendon pathology and adiposity must be studied in individuals without tendon pain. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether fat distribution was associated with asymptomatic Achilles tendon pathology. Methods. The Achilles tendons of 298 individuals were categorised as normal or pathological using diagnostic ultrasound. Fat distribution was determined using anthropometry (waist circumference, waist hip ratio [WHR]) and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Results. Asymptomatic Achilles tendon pathology was more evident in men (13%) than women (5%) (p = 0.007). Men with tendon pathology were older (50.9 10.4, 36.3 11.3, p < 0.001), had greater WHR (0.926 0.091, 0.875 0.065, p = 0.039), higher android/gynoid fat mass ratio (0.616 0.186, 0.519 0.142, p = 0.014) and higher upper-body/lower body fat mass ratio (2.346 0.630, 2.022 0.467, p = 0.013). Men older than 40 years with a waist circumference >83 cm had the greatest prevalence of tendon pathology (33%). Women with tendon pathology were older (47.4 10.0, 36.0 10.3, p = 0.008), had less total fat (17196 3173 g, 21626 7882 g, p = 0.009), trunk fat (7367 1662 g, 10087 4152 g, p = 0.003) and android fat (1117 324 g, 1616 811 g, p = 0.005). They had lower central/peripheral fat mass ratios (0.711 0.321 g, 0.922 0.194 g, p = 0.004) than women with normal tendons. Women with tendon pathology were more often menopausal (63%, 13%, p = 0.002). Conclusions. Men with Achilles tendon pathology were older and had a central fat distribution. Women with tendon pathology were older and had a peripheral fat distribution. An interaction between age and waist circumference was observed among men.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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