Achilles Tendon Rupture: An Athlete’s Achilles’ Heel
Your Achilles tendon serves to connect your heel bone to your calf muscle and plays an important role in many of your daily motions: walking, jumping, running all depend on a healthy and functioning Achilles tendon. The tendon is vulnerable to injury, most commonly a rupturing or tearing of the tendon.
What Can Cause An Achilles Tendon To Rupture?
Certain things can put you at risk for experiencing an Achilles tendon rupture. Recreational athletes are particularly more susceptible to the injury, with men being five times more likely than women to experience it. Although the tear can result from a forceful trauma to the back of the heel, it is most often caused by a sudden flexing of the ankle, as can happen during sports play. This same motion can occur as a result of a trip, fall or jump. Below are some ways you can lessen your risk of experiencing a ruptured Achilles tendon.
- Stretching and strengthening calf muscles helps relieve the strain on the Achilles tendon and increase its range of motion. A strong Achilles tendon is nothing without strong calf muscles to back it!
- As always, be careful of where and what surfaces you are running on. Smooth running surfaces are the key to safety.
- Beware of the “weekend warrior effect” which is commonly seen as a cause of Achilles tendon injuries – i.e. when usually sedentary individuals suddenly place undue stress on the tendon during “pick up” sports or other rare recreational activity.
Treatment of Achilles Tendon Rupture
An Achilles tendon rupture will present itself as a sudden, stabbing pain in the back of the ankle with difficulty walking after the injury. There may be swelling, and a gap that can be felt just above the heel. Your doctor may have you lie down and try to engage your calf muscle; if your foot doesn’t flex automatically it’s assumed your tendon has ruptured. Treatments for a ruptured tendon include:
- Surgery that stitches the tendon back together.
- Wearing a cast and allowing your tendon to heal back together on its own over time.
The specific treatment selected depends on many factors, such as age, usual activity level, and associated medical conditions. If you suspect an Achilles tendon injury, call Matthew Boes M.D. early so that appropriate evaluation and treatment may be instituted.
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