Background: Tendon pathology on imaging has been associated with an increased risk of developing symptoms. This evidence is based on classifying the tendon as normal or pathological. It is unclear whether the extent of tendon pathology is associated with the development or severity of symptoms. Objectives: To investigate whether the presence and extent of tendon pathology on ultrasound tissue characterisation (UTC), or a previous history of symptoms, were associated with the development of symptoms over a football season. Methods: 179 male Australian football players underwent UTC imaging of their Achilles and/or patellar tendon at the start of the pre-season. Players completed monthly OSTRC overuse questionnaires to quantify the presence and severity of Achilles and/or patellar tendon symptoms. Risk factor analysis was performed to identify associations between imaging and the development of symptoms. Results: A pathological Achilles tendon increased the risk of developing symptoms (RR = 3.2, 95%CI 1.7–5.9). Conversely, a pathological patellar tendon was not significantly associated with the development of symptoms (RR = 1.8, 95%CI 0.9–3.7). Quantification of tendon structure using UTC did not enhance the ability to identify athletes who developed symptoms. Previous history of symptoms was the strongest predictor for the development of symptoms (Achilles RR = 3.0 95%CI 1.8–4.8; patellar RR = 3.7 95%CI 2.2–6.1). Conclusion: Tendon pathology was associated with the development of self-reported symptoms; however previous history of symptoms was a stronger risk factor. The extent of disorganisation quantified by UTC should not be used as a marker for the presence or severity of current and future symptoms.
Little is known about the prevalence and associated of morbidity of tendon problems. With only severe cases of tendon problems missing games, players that have their training and performance impacted are not captured by traditional injury surveillance. The aim of this study was to report the prevalence of Achilles and patellar tendon problems in elite male Australian football players using the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre (OSTRC) overuse questionnaire, compared to a time-loss definition. Male athletes from 12 professional Australian football teams were invited to complete a monthly questionnaire over a 9-month period in the 2016 pre- and competitive season. The OSTRC overuse injury questionnaire was used to measure the prevalence and severity of Achilles and patellar tendon symptoms and was compared to traditional match-loss statistics. A total of 441 participants were included. Of all participants, 21.5% (95% CI: 17.9-25.6) and 25.2% (95% CI 21.3-29.4) reported Achilles or patellar tendon problems during the season, respectively. Based on the traditional match-loss definition, a combined 4.1% of participants missed games due to either Achilles or patellar tendon injury. A greater average monthly prevalence was observed during the pre-season compared to the competitive season. Achilles and patellar tendon problems are prevalent in elite male Australian football players. These injuries are not adequately captured using a traditional match-loss definition. Prevention of these injuries may be best targeted during the off- and pre-season due to higher prevalence of symptoms during the pre-season compared to during the competitive season.