How To Recognize And Treat Achilles Tendon Ruptures

How To Recognize And Treat Achilles Tendon Ruptures

Your Achilles tendon is remarkably strong. It connects the calf muscles (comprised of the gastrocnemius and soleus) located in the back of the lower leg to the back of the heel. Unfortunately, the Achilles tendon can partially tear or completely rupture under the right circumstances. Complete ruptures are more commonly seen in individuals over the age of 35 than in younger athletes.

Achilles tendon ruptures are frequently associated with history of inflammation. Additionally, significant Achilles tendon injuries commonly result from aggressive acceleration movements in the lower leg and/or rapid change-of-direction activities. Let’s learn more to help mitigate complications from this injury and avoid it becoming your Achilles heel moving forward.

Signs & Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Rupture

  • Sudden, sharp pain, as if struck in the back of the leg
  • A sudden snapping sound accompanied by intense, but short-lived, pain
  • An inability to push the foot downward or rise up on the toes while walking
  • A divot or gap where the tendon is located, felt by palpation
  • A significant amount of swelling and surprisingly, minimal pain, in the back of the lower leg
  • A positive Thompson’s test result

How to Treat a Torn Achilles Tendon

  • Apply ice to the area with an ice bag, ice massage or, ideally, an ice bucket.
  • Avoid walking.  Until the severity of the injury is determined, walking with this injury may result in additional damage that can significantly prolong recovery time.
  • Elevate the ankle and lower leg to limit swelling and decrease pain.
  • Immediately seek a sports medicine consultation. Early diagnosis is crucial when treating this injury.

Questions to Ask About Your Torn Achilles Tendon

Even if you’re not a professional athlete, be sure to seek safe, efficient treatment for your torn Achilles tendon. To emulate smart professional athletes with this injury who want to safely return to their sport, ask your sports medicine specialist the following questions:

1. Are you 100% certain of the diagnosis, and is an MRI needed to determine the extent of the injury?

2. What are my rehab options from both a conservative (non-surgical) and more aggressive (surgical) standpoint?

3. Given both rehab options above, what can I expect over the next 3, 6 and 9 months?

4. If your son or daughter were in my situation with the same exact injury, what treatment plan would you recommend?

5. If surgery is my best option, how many of these types of surgeries do you perform per year?  Who do you consider expert Achilles surgeon(s) in this area?

6. Which expert Achilles rehab specialists do you recommend in this area?

7. Will you provide me and my therapist with a detailed rehabilitation protocol?

Apply These Elite Sports Medicine Tips To Foster a Speedy Recovery

  • Know What You’re Dealing With – Seek immediate help from an orthopedic medical specialist (rather than a general practitioner) to obtain a clear diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Act Quickly Varied treatment options such as walking boots, surgery and early weight-bearing plans must be considered in the immediate aftermath of the injury to promote a full recovery.
  • Listen to Nike – Think realistically about your short and long-term activities and act accordingly.  Utilizing crutches for a month or two is never ideal, but if doing so improves your prognosis to remain a happy and active athlete over the course of your lifetime, JUST DO IT!
  • Think Like a Pro – Most high-level athletes with a complete Achilles tendon rupture choose surgical repair for their tendon.  The outcome is usually better than employing conservative treatment options, which typically see longer healing times and a slower rehabilitation schedule.
  • Expect a Marathon Recuperation Period – Recovery time is considerable for this type of injury.  Generally speaking, surgical repair dictates a recovery timeframe of approximately 6 months.  This timing extends closer to 9 months with conservative, non-surgical approaches.

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

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