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Achilles Tendon Rupture

Written by Accredited Sports Professionals   Posted in:Common Issues   June 2, 2015

Achilles Tendon Rupture  article image
The Achilles tendon is located in the lower leg, connecting muscles in the calf to the heel bone. Research has shown a rupture of this tendon is perhaps the most severe muscular injury in the lower leg (Anderson & Hall, 1997). A rupture/tear can be partial or complete. A partial tear is where the tendon is ripped but the bone and muscle are still connected, whereas a complete tear is when the muscle and bone are totally disconnected. An Achilles tendon rupture is generally caused by pushing off on the ball of the foot and extending the knee, resulting in a high force or stress on the area (Anderson & Hall, 1997). The injury occurs most often in sports that require this pushing action, such as football, basketball and racquet sports, as well as track and field activities. It can occur for various reasons, generally factors affecting the tendons strength which can make someone more susceptible to the injury. At times the pain can be felt as the rupture actually happens, almost like a popping sensation. As well as this experience there are situations where it is not until after the activity has finished that a rupture becomes apparent (Peterson & Renstrom, 2001). Symptoms of a ruptured Achilles include a defect or change to the tendon that is actually visible, swelling, tenderness and failure to put pressure or balance on the relative leg (Anderson et al., 2000). Methods used to diagnose the injury include x-rays and an MRI scan. An x-ray shows swelling of the soft tissue of the ruptured area and an MRI scan provides a more in depth analysis of where the tear is and the severity of the injury (Peterson & Renstrom, 2001).

Treatment on the Achilles tendon depends on the severity of the rupture. Initially the athlete may apply ice and rest the foot, consulting a specialist to look at the injury. For a partial or acute tear, a specialist may apply a cast or boot for the patient to wear for up to 6 weeks. An exercise programme may also be prescribed (Peterson & Renstrom, 2001). These non- operative methods provide greater success in older adults who do not compete at as high or competitive a level (Anderson et al., 2000). In cases of a chronic rupture or for highly competitive athletes, surgical repair to remove the damaged tissue is the most effective method of repair. After surgery the whole recovery time before being able to train fully is around 3-4 months. The first 2 months should be used to allow the tendon to actually heal. The athlete should then look at returning to competitive activity after 4-6 months. Studies have shown surgery to be relatively successful, with 80% of athletes undergoing surgery returning to the previous level of activity (Peterson & Renstrom, 2001).
 
References
Anderson, M. K., Hall, S. J., & Martin, M. (2000). Sports injury management. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Anderson, M. K., & Hall, S. J. (1997). Fundamentals of sports injury management. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Peterson, L., & Renstrom, P. (2001). Sports injuries: Their prevention and treatment. CRC Press