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Keywords:

  • Achilles tendinopathy;
  • Doppler ultrasound;
  • ultrasound imaging;
  • badminton

The relationship between Achilles tendon ultrasound abnormalities, including a spindle shape and heterogeneous echogenicity, is unclear. This study investigated the relationship between these abnormalities, tendon thickness, Doppler flow and pain. Sixty-one badminton players (122 tendons, 36 men, and 25 women) were recruited. Achilles tendon thickness, shape (spindle, parallel), echogenicity (heterogeneous, homogeneous) and Doppler flow (present or absent) were measured bilaterally with ultrasound. Achilles tendon pain (during or after activity over the last week) and pain and function [Victorian Institute of Sport Achilles Assessment (VISA-A)] were measured. Sixty-eight (56%) tendons were parallel with homogeneous echogenicity (normal), 22 (18%) were spindle shaped with homogeneous echogenicity, 16 (13%) were parallel with heterogeneous echogenicity and 16 (13%) were spindle shaped with heterogeneous echogenicity. Spindle shape was associated with self-reported pain (P<0.05). Heterogeneous echogenicity was associated with lower VISA-A scores than normal tendon (P<0.05). There was an ordinal relationship between normal tendon, parallel and heterogeneous and spindle shaped and heterogeneous tendons with regard to increasing thickness and likelihood of Doppler flow. Heterogeneous echogenicity with a parallel shape may be a physiological phase and may develop into heterogeneous echogenicity with a spindle shape that is more likely to be pathological.