The purpose of this study was to investigate the influences of static stretching on the viscoelastic properties of human tendon structures in vivo. Seven male subjects performed static stretching in which the ankle was passively flexed to 35° of dorsiflexion and remained stationary for 10 min. Before and after the stretching, the elongation of the tendon and aponeurosis of medial gastrocnemius muscle (MG) was directly measured by ultrasonography while the subjects performed ramp isometric plantar flexion up to the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), followed by a ramp relaxation. The relationship between the estimated muscle force (Fm) of MG and tendon elongation (L) during the ascending phase was fitted to a linear regression, the slope of which was defined as stiffness of the tendon structures. The percentage of the area within the Fm-L loop to the area beneath the curve during the ascending phase was calculated as an index representing hysteresis. Stretching produced no significant change in MVC but significantly decreased stiffness and hysteresis from 22.9 ± 5.8 to 20.6 ± 4.6 N/mm and from 20.6 ± 8.8 to 13.5 ± 7.6%, respectively. The present results suggest that stretching decreased the viscosity of tendon structures but increased the elasticity.
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