Joint range of motion (ROM) is an important parameter for athletic performance and muscular injury risk. Nonetheless, a complete description of muscular factors influencing ROM among individuals and between men and women is lacking. We examined whether passive muscle stiffness (evaluated by angle-specific muscle shear modulus), tolerance to muscle stretch (evaluated by muscle shear modulus at end-ROM), and muscle slack angle of the triceps surae are associated with the individual variability and sex difference in dorsiflexion ROM, using ultrasound shear wave elastography. For men, ROM was negatively correlated to passive muscle stiffness of the medial and lateral gastrocnemius in a tensioned state and positively to tolerance to muscle stretch in the medial gastrocnemius. For women, ROM was only positively correlated to tolerance to muscle stretch in all muscles but not correlated to passive muscle stiffness. Muscle slack angle was not correlated to ROM in men and women. Significant sex differences were observed only for dorsiflexion ROM and passive muscle stiffness in a tensioned state. These findings suggest that muscular factors associated with ROM are different between men and women. Furthermore, the sex difference in dorsiflexion ROM might be attributed partly to that in passive muscle stiffness of plantar flexors.
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