Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord present behind the ankle that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is used when you walk, run and jump. The Achilles tendon ruptures most often in athletes participating in sports that involve running, pivoting and jumping. Recreational sports that may cause Achilles rupture include tennis, football, basketball and gymnastics.
When the Achilles tendon ruptures you may experience pain in the back of your leg above your heel, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty to stand on tiptoe and push the leg when walking. A popping or snapping sound may be heard when the injury occurs.
Your doctor diagnoses the rupture based on symptoms, history of the injury and physical examination. Your doctor may also feel a gap or depression in the tendon, just above heel bone. Your doctor will gently squeeze the calf muscles. If the Achilles tendon is intact, there will be flexion movement of the foot, if it is ruptured, there will be no movement observed.
Achilles tendon rupture is treated using non-surgical method or surgical method. Non-surgical treatment involves wearing a cast or special brace that lifts your heel, allowing the tendon to heal. Surgical procedure involves opening the skin and suturing the torn tendon together. Surgery helps to decrease the recurrence of the Achilles tendon tear in comparison to the non-surgical treatment. With either treatment, physical therapy may later be recommended to improve the strength and flexibility of leg muscles and the Achilles tendon.
Dr. Grimes encountered a memorable case of Achilles Tendon Rupture during his residency. A 40 year-old man who was a former world-record holder in the 100-yard dash was playing catcher in a softball game. The batter bunted the ball, and the catcher sprinted forward to field the ball. He simultaneously felt a pop and pain above his heel and fell down. He stayed low and looked around thinking he had been shot in the heel with a gun. However, he noticed there was no bullet wound–he had torn his Achilles tendon.
To help prevent an Achilles tendon injury, it is a good practice to perform stretching and warm-up exercises before participating in any exercises or sports activities. Gradually increase the intensity and length of time of activity. Muscle conditioning may help to strengthen the muscles in the body.