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Keywords:

  • architecture;
  • force;
  • growth;
  • maturation;
  • moment–angle relationship;
  • scaling

Abstract

Muscle performance is closely related to the architecture and dimensions of the muscle–tendon unit and the effect of maturation on these architectural characteristics in humans is currently unknown. This study determined whether there are differences in musculo-tendinous architecture between adults and children of both sexes. Fascicle length and pennation angle were measured from ultrasound images at three sites along the length of the vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, vastis medialis and rectus femoris muscles. Muscle volume and muscle–tendon length were measured from magnetic resonance images. Muscle physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) was calculated as the ratio of muscle volume to optimum fascicle length. Fascicle length was greater in the adult groups than in children (P < 0.05) but pennation angle did not differ between groups (P > 0.05). The ratios between fascicle and muscle length and between fascicle and tendon length were not different (P > 0.05) between adults and children for any quadriceps muscle. Quadriceps volume and PCSA of each muscle were greater in adults than children (P < 0.01) but the relative proportion of each head to the total quadriceps volume was similar in all groups. However, the difference in PCSA between adults and children (men ∼ 104% greater than boys, women ∼ 57% greater than girls) was greater (P < 0.05) than the difference in fascicle length (men ∼ 37% greater than boys, women ∼ 10% greater than girls). It is concluded that the fascicle, muscle and tendon lengthen proportionally during maturation, thus the muscle–tendon stiffness and excursion range are likely to be similar in children and adults but the relatively greater increase in PCSA than fascicle length indicates that adult muscles are better designed for force production than children’s muscles.