What Happens When an Achilles Tendon Ruptures?
The Achilles tendon is an amazingly versatile tendon. It is the largest and strongest in the human body and can hold up to ten times a person’s body weight.
The vast majority of Achilles tendon ruptures occur during sports activities, most often playing basketball. While it might seem that athletes who are highly active may be more susceptible to an Achilles rupture or tear, it is actually the individual who is de-conditioned or not used to playing that is at higher risk of this type of injury.
Other risk factors that can make you more likely to rupture this tendon are high arches; having type O blood; and taking certain types of antibiotics. However, most injuries to the Achilles tendon occur from overuse. This tendon becomes less pliable and will become tighter as you age. Without adequately warming up or stretching prior to activity, the Achilles tendon is more likely to rupture.
So what happens when it ruptures? Most patients describe a sensation of being kicked, hit or shot in the back of the ankle. Sometimes, a ‘popping’ sound can be heard. Either way, it’s usually obvious that a rupture has occurred. The ability to push off the foot to walk becomes difficult or impossible, as the tendon is responsible for that articulation. These tears can sometimes be mistaken for sprains, and if treatment is not quickly received, long-term dysfunction of the foot and ankle can result.
Prevention is key to avoiding rupture. First and foremost, stretching is the best and most effective way to protect the Achilles tendon. If you have tight ankles, it is recommended that you stretch the feet and ankles multiple times per day, particularly if you have a history of Achilles rupture or tendonitis. Stretching the calf muscles and soles of the feet help to strengthen the tendon.
When playing sports, it’s a good idea to slowly increase the intensity of training or playing. An abrupt increase in activity could put unnecessary stress on the Achilles tendon. Consider alternating high impact sports with low impact ones, such as swimming or riding a bike. Wear the right shoes for your sport. For example, f you are cross training, wear shoes designed for that purpose instead of walking shoes, as these shoes have two different soles and support structures.
Once the Achilles has ruptured, it will likely remain a weakened tendon, even after healing. Achilles tendon ruptures can end the careers of professional athletes, and those who do return are statistically likely to remain only two to three seasons more.
Treatment options include surgery or bracing and rehabilitation, depending on the severity of the rupture. Surgical repair is the most successful form of treatment in most cases. Rehabilitation is extensive and can take many months. Thankfully, technology has advanced and new surgical techniques make tendon repair more effective than ever.
If you suspect that you have ruptured your Achilles tendon, it is extremely important to seek treatment right away to avoid long-term damage. Request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists today for a foot exam by clicking here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.
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