Also known as your Achilles heel, your Achilles tendon is one of the most important tendons in your body. Tendons are strong tissues that connect your muscles to your bones - and to each other.
Your Achilles tendon runs down the back of your leg, connecting that muscle to your heel. It’s used when you walk, run or jump. Because it’s used so often, it’s more prone to injury; a torn Achilles tendon is one of the most common leg injuries. And if you’ve torn yours, you’ll be off the courts and out of action for some time as it heals.
What causes Achilles tendon ruptures?
Tendon ruptures often happen when you up your activity levels - like going from playing soccer once a week, to maybe five times a week. The added stress on your Achilles tendon can cause it to rupture. Sports and other activities that place great stress on your ankles and calves can inflict a tear.
Other causes of a tear include:
- Playing ball on hard surfaces.
- Running further than usual.
- Running uphill more than usual.
- Stop-start sports.
- Wearing shoes with poor shock absorption.
- Wearing shoes that have worn down unevenly.
- A weak tendon.Also, if you’re not careful on those weekend binges, you may give yourself a beer injury.
- Falling or stepping into holes toes up while over the limit can end up in a rupture.
Have you torn your Achilles tendon?
Your doctor will be able to diagnose if you’ve torn your tendon, but these symptoms may show a rupture:
- Pain, or feeling like you’ve being kicked in the calf.
- A snapping or popping sound.
- You can’t walk properly, jump, or walk on your toes.
- Swelling around your heels or ankles.
- You can’t put your weight on your affected leg.
Diagnosing a ruptured tendon
Your doctor will ask you what you were doing when you felt the pop or other symptoms. He will look at your leg muscles and move them around to see if this causes your foot to move. If it doesn’t, you probably have a torn tendon. He may be able to feel a “gap” in the area if your tendon is torn all the way.
Treating a torn Achilles tendon
Treating a torn tendon involves rest, so skip any exercise that involves your legs for about four weeks. You will probably be in a cast as well.
You may also need:
- A cast or braces that allows you to walk without placing weight on your leg.
- Slow exercises to gradually strengthen your leg.
- Your doctor may also recommend surgery if you’re an athlete.
Preventing a tear
There are some things you can’t change to prevent a tear; your age, sex or activity level, but some doctors recommend stretches to warm up before games or exercise.
A ruptured tendon might cramp your style, but if you do what your doctor says, things can probably be back to normal in about four to six months. So, just tough it out. It’s for your own good.