The objective of this study was to determine whether sprint performance is related to the mechanical (elongation – force relationship of the tendon and aponeurosis, muscle strength) and morphological (fascicle length, pennation angle, muscle thickness) properties of the quadriceps femoris and triceps surae muscle – tendon units. Two groups of sprinters (slow, n ¼ 11; fast, n ¼ 17) performed maximal isometric knee extension and plantar flexion contractions on a dynamometer at 11 different muscle – tendon unit lengths. Elongation of the tendon and aponeurosis of the gastrocnemius medialis and the vastus lateralis was measured using ultrasonography. We observed no significant differences in maximal joint moments at the ankle and knee joints or morphological properties of the gastrocnemius medialis and vastus lateralis between groups (P 4 0.05). The fast group exhibited greater elongation of the vastus lateralis tendon and aponeurosis at a given tendon force, and greater maximal elongation of the vastus lateralis tendon and aponeurosis during maximum voluntary contraction (P 5 0.05). Furthermore, maximal elongation of the vastus lateralis tendon and aponeurosis showed a significant correlation with 100-m sprint times (r ¼ 70.567, P ¼ 0.003). For the elongation – force relationship at the gastrocnemius medialis tendon and aponeurosis, the two groups recorded similar values. It is suggested that the greater elongation of the vastus lateralis tendon and aponeurosis of the fast group benefits energy storage and return as well as the shortening velocity of the muscle – tendon unit.
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