A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a wearable that aims to track the tendon tension of runners and walkers.
The system, which non-invasively measures the tendons when the user is engaged in movement, the engineers hope, will one day be able to help plan more effective treatments for people suffering with injuries, as well as those with diseases.
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"Currently, wearables can measure our movement, but do not provide information on the muscle forces that generate the movement," said study leader Darryl Thelen.
"We've found a way to measure the vibrational characteristics‚ÄĒin this case, the speed of a shear wave traveling along a tendon. And then we went further and determined how we can interpret this measurement to find the tensile stress within the tendon."
"We think the potential of this new technology is high, both from a basic science standpoint and for clinical applications," Thelen continued.
The prototype of the wearable has been tested on the Achilles, patellar, and hamstring tendons of the wearer, tapping the collagen band around 50 times per second. When it does, it initiates a wave in the tendon, and two accelerometers monitor how quickly it travels. Then, using this data, researchers are able to measure how the vibrational characteristics of the tendon change during movement.
This method, detailed further by the team in the Nature Communications journal, though the prototype's applications could soon be making waves in rehabilitation, orthopaedics, ergonomics, and sport.