BACKGROUND: Limited research suggests elite athletes may differ from non-athletes in clinical tendon tap reflex responses.
METHODS: In this matched cohort study, 25 elite rugby league athletes were compared with 29 non-athletes to examine differences in tendon reflex responses. Relationships between reflex responses and lengths of players' careers were also examined. Biceps, triceps, patellar and Achilles tendon reflexes were clinically assessed.
RESULTS: Right and left reflexes were well correlated for each tendon (rS = 0.7-0.9). The elite rugby league athletes exhibited significantly weaker reflex responses than non-athletes in all four tendons (p < 0.005). Biceps reflexes demonstrated the largest difference and Achilles reflexes the smallest difference. Moderate negative correlations (rS = -0.3-0.6) were observed between reflex responses and lengths of players' careers.
CONCLUSIONS: Future research is required to further elucidate mechanisms resulting in the observed differences in tendon reflexes and to ensure clinical tendon tap examinations and findings can be interpreted appropriately in this athletic population.