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The Role of Tendons and Collagen in Musculoskeletal Sports Injuries

The Role of Tendons and Collagen in Musculoskeletal Sports Injuries

Musculoskeletal sports injuries are by far and the most common complaint in athletes and highly active populations. In professional and recreational sports, over 50% of all injuries can be classified as sprains, strains, ruptures, or breaks of musculoskeletal tissues. If we look at specific studies around professional leagues, we see that nearly 70% of American Football injuries are sprains or strains (Feeley et al., 2008). 

This is not only because of the extreme contact experienced by these athletes as greater than 60% of all injuries in the English Premier League fall into this category as well (Hawkins et al., 2001).

 

Injury Prevention in high-level athletes with the help of collagen

We were highly troubled by these statistics on musculoskeletal sports injuries as well as buoyed by the recent studies around the nutritional and exercise interventions used to increase collagen synthesis, helping to strengthen these tissues and the effect that this could have on injury levels. 

 

The Benefits of Collagen 

  • Strengthens joints and tendons
  • Improves muscle recovery
  • Aids digestion and gut health
  • Younger looking, more hydrated skin

 

Understanding Muscle Sports Injuries - How Muscle Ruptures Appear

When we look at the main attributes controlled by a professional athlete’s strength and conditioning program, we look at strength, power and speed. To perform at high levels utilising these three attributes, athletes need to stiffen the musculoskeletal system. 

In endurance athletes, stiffness is directly related to their movement economy (Jones, 2002). The same thing is true for power athletes as sprinting speed is directly related to leg stiffness (Chelly & Denis, 2001). 

The issue arises when we look at data around the increase of exercise-induced muscle injury concurrently with passive muscle stiffness (McHugh et al., 1999). In other words, when a tendon is stiffer than the muscle is strong the protective effect of the tendon is reduced to an extent where the muscle ruptures. What provides stiffness in the tendon is the crosslinking of collagen. 

Given tendon, mass is 60% water it is important that the crosslinking of the collagen and water takes place as this makes the tendon viscoelastic. Meaning tendons behave as both a liquid and an elastic solid. What this means for an athlete is that the faster a tendon is loaded, the stiffer it acts and the more energy it can store (Figure 2).

Acute exercise is known to increase collagen synthesis (Langberg H et al. 2001) & (Langberg H et al1999) as well as the expression of the primary enzyme involved in collagen crosslinking, lysyl oxidase (Heinemeier KM et al 1985).

 

Where In the Body can Collagen Be Found?

Collagen is a major component of the human body, about 30% of our total body protein is made up of collagen. Collagen is crucial for mobile joints, stable bones, healthy muscles, strong ligaments and tendons. It is one of the primary structural proteins of connective tissues and abundant in blood vessels, intervertebral discs, the blood-brain barrier, the cornea, dentin as well as the intestinal wall – a vital component of our whole body.

 

 

 

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