Ruptured Achilles Tendon: Prevention and Treatment
By Arthur Kaplan, D.P.M.
March 01, 2011
Category: Foot
Tags: Achilles Tendon  

Achilles TendonThe Achilles tendon is the strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the back of the heel bone. The achilles tendon is the stongest tendon in the body. This lower leg tendon is a powerful plantar flexor allowingthe foot to move downward into the floor. This tendon enables you to walk, jump, stand on your toes and climb stairs. You rely on it virtually every time you move your foot.

When the tendon is stretched beyond its normal capacity, a complete or partial tear may occur. Most Achilles tendon ruptures occur as a result of sport-related injuries when forceful jumping or sudden accelerations overstretch the tendon and cause it to tear. However I have seen the injury occur simply by stepping off a curb the wrong way, creating a rapid dorsiflexion (the opposite normal movement of the achilles tendon) when unexpected, rupturing the tendon. Individuals with achilles tendinitis, tendonosis or tenosynovitis (other common terms for weak and inflamed tendons) are also more susceptible to achilles tendon tears (ie Patrick Ewing 1999 NBA finals vs. San Antonio Spurs).

Signs of a torn Achilles tendon include:

  • Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the ankle and lower leg
  • Snapping or popping sensation at the time of the injury
  • Swelling down the back side of the leg or near the heel
  • Difficulty walking or rising up on the toes

The best treatment for a torn Achilles tendon is prevention. Avoiding this injury could save yourself months of rehab and extended time away from your game. Help prevent injury to your Achilles tendon by:

  • stretching your calf muscles regularly
  • limiting hill-running and jumping activities that place excess stress on the Achilles tendons
  • resting during exercise when you experience pain
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • alternating high impact sports, such as running with low impact sports, such as walking or biking
  • wearing appropriate, supportive shoes with proper heel cushioning

If you suspect a ruptured Achilles tendon, visit Arthur Kaplan, D.P.M. as soon as possible. Until you can seek professional care, avoid walking on the injured tendon and keep it elevated. Ice the affected area to reduce pain and swelling and if possible, wrap the injured foot and ankle. For partial tears, swelling and pain may be less severe, but prompt treatment should still be administered.

Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture can be surgical or non-surgical. Surgery to reattach the tendon is generally recommended, followed by rehabilitation, especially for individuals who want to return to recreational sports. Arthur Kaplan, D.P.M. can evaluate the severity of your tear and suggest the best treatment plan. With proper care, most people return to their former level of performance within six months.

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