Three-dimensional reconstructions of the Achilles tendon insertion in man


Dr M. Benjamin, School of Biosciences, Museum Avenue, PO Box 911, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3US, UK. E-mail:


The distribution of type II collagen in sagittal sections of the Achilles tendon has been used to reconstruct the three-dimensional (3D) shape and position of three fibrocartilages (sesamoid, periosteal and enthesis) associated with its insertion. The results showed that there is a close correspondence between the shape and position of the sesamoid and periosteal fibrocartilages – probably because of their functional interdependence. The former protects the tendon from compression during dorsiflexion of the foot, and the latter protects the superior tuberosity of the calcaneus. When the zone of calcified enthesis fibrocartilage and the subchondral bone are mapped in 3D, the reconstructions show that there is a complex pattern of interlocking between pieces of calcified fibrocartilage and bone at the insertion site. We suggest that this is of fundamental importance in anchoring the tendon to the bone, because the manner in which a tendon insertion develops makes it unlikely that many collagen fibres pass across the tissue boundary from tendon to bone. When force is transmitted to the bone from a loaded tendon, it is directed towards the plantar fascia by a series of highly orientated trabeculae that are clearly visible in 3D in thick resin sections.