What is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?

You may have been out one day playing soccer or going for a hard run when all of a sudden you feel a pain at the back of your ankle that drops you to the ground. You might even have heard a “pop.” Whatever has happened, you’ll need help getting off the field, and you know you’ll need to see a doctor right away. What on earth has happened?

The doctor, after examining your foot and ankle, makes a diagnosis of Achilles tendon rupture. You have heard of the Achilles tendon, but you weren’t quite sure where it was. The Achilles tendon is a tendon that attaches your heel bone to your calf muscles. It’s the longest and strongest tendon in your body and was named after the Greek warrior Achilles. When he was a baby, his mother dipped him in the River Styx to make him invincible, and she had to hold him by his heel. Because of that, his heel was the only part of him that was vulnerable. Naturally, someone ran a spear through it and killed him.

Like Achilles, his tendon is peculiarly vulnerable and is prone to rupture. This usually happens when you indulge in sports where you have to sprint, jump or push against any resistance. This causes the calf muscle to sometimes contract violently, which can snap the tendon.

Besides the pain, the area will experience swelling, bruising and stiffness, and you won’t be able to stand on tiptoe. You even feel a gap when you touch the back of your leg where the tendon ruptured. The first thing to do is the RICE procedure. Rest the affected leg, apply an ice pack, compress the area, and elevate it.

The doctor will probably recommend surgery to repair your tendon. After you’ve been given anesthesia, they’ll make an incision over the injured area, find the ends of the Achilles tendon and simply sew them together. The surgeon also checks to see if any other damage has been done to the area, then closes the incision with sutures that they’ll remove after 10 days or so. They’ll then put your leg in a cast and give you crutches.

The doctor will prescribe pain killers and antibiotics and you’ll be given instructions on how to take care of yourself as your tendon heals.

Unfortunately, a ruptured Achilles tendon can take as long as 10 weeks to heal. But you’ll use that time to rest, and avoid putting weight on your leg. After the tendon is healed, you can start physical therapy and non weight-bearing exercises such as swimming. Eventually you should be able to walk normally and without pain. The good news is that as fearsome as the injury is, the great majority of people with Achilles tendon rupture make a complete recovery after treatment.

If you want more information about your Achilles tendon or have other questions about orthopedics, don’t hesitate to contact the staff at the Plano Orthopedic Sports Medicine & Spine Center. Their board certified surgeons and physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor treat all manner of sports and orthopedic injuries. Call 972-250-5700.

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POSMC is a full-service medical facility specializing in the evaluation and treatment of orthopedic injuries. The practice is led by a group of 12 board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. Contact us today!