Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles Tendon RuptureWeekend sporting leagues are popular among many adults.  If you have a competitive spirit and enjoy the camaraderie of a team, signing up to play your favorite game through a recreational program can be a fun way to stay active.  Whenever beginning a new activity, it is important to protect yourself against an injury such as an Achilles tendon rupture.  The degree of tearing (complete or partial) will dictate the amount of discomfort.  However, surgery is not always necessary.

What is the largest tendon in the body?

The Achilles tendon holds this distinction.  The connector runs from the bone in the heel to the calf muscle and enables toe pointing, propelling of the body, and standing on the toes.  Whether you’re spiking a volleyball or shooting a jump shot, this tissue band is critical to movement.

Achilles Tendon Rupture:  The Risks

Changing your physical routine quickly places additional stress on the feet and ankles.  Sports injuries aren’t the only causes—everyday missteps such as falling on uneven terrain may lead to this painful occurrence.

The risk is higher among certain groups.  For instance, men experience this injury more often than women.  Age is another factor.  People between thirty and forty years of age are more likely to be hurt in this way.  Certain medications and medical therapies (such as steroid shots) can weaken the tendon resulting in a high peril situation.

What does it feel like when an Achilles tendon ruptures?

Symptoms can vary from person-to-person, and can be seen, heard, and felt.  Always pay attention to all signs of a foot or ankle problem.  A popping or snapping sound often accompanies this injury. Along with this sound and sensation, you will likely feel severe pain.  Watch for swelling and decreased range of motion.  In fact, standing on your tip-toes will be impossible if the tendon has ruptured.

What can I expect during my appointment?

An exam of the lower part of your leg will provide important information.  If the Achilles tendon has torn completely, a space can actually be felt during a manual evaluation.  Due to the role of the tendon in movement, your reflexes will provide important clues.  If contracting the calf muscle does not cause flexing of the foot, this injury is highly probable. In addition, you may be diagnosed with an MRI. An MRI is a safe and useful imaging tool.  There is no radiation involved and the extent of the damage to the tissues in the area is shown in the results.

Treatment Options:  What’s best for you?

Once a diagnosis is made, Dr. Stavros Alexopoulos will discuss the available treatment options.  Depending upon your age, current health, and the severity of the rupture, surgery may be recommended.  Older patients may opt for a less invasive method of treatment such as immobilization, which eliminates the surgical risks of anesthesia and infection.  Physical therapy will help build strength in the injured area.

Reconnecting the band of tissue surgically ensures it is reconnected completely and strengthened with other tendons.  Physical therapy will be part of the recovery process, which can take several months.

Recreational sports and activities are an enjoyable part of life, but they can also lead to injury.  Take steps to protect your feet and ankles by cross-training and stretching.  Choose gradual changes to your routine, and workout on surfaces that are safe.  Equipment is key, and the proper footwear is the foundation of safe physical activity.

Dr. Stavros Alexopoulos is your Chicago Foot Expert.  Answers to your foot and ankle pain questions are just around the corner.  Make an appointment today by calling (773) 561-8100, or visit us online to request an appointment.