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Achilles Tendon Ruptures

Foot & Ankle Conditions with Patient-Centered Care

For you to be able to jump, run, and pivot, you’ll need healthy Achilles tendons. These tendons are the largest in the body, and the Achilles tendons are tough, fibrous bands of tissue connecting the calf muscles to your heels. When the Achilles tendon is torn or ruptured, the pain can be intense, depending on the severity of the injury. Achilles tendon injuries can happen to anyone, but they are most common in people who perform activities that require quickly changing speeds and pivoting, such as tennis players or basketball players.

Achilles Tendon Injury Risk Factors

An Achilles tendon injury is more common in people in the age group of 30 to 40 years old due to reduced blood supply, making them more prone to damage. Additionally, it is five times more common to occur in men than in women.Anyone can hurt their Achilles tendon, but there are risk factors that can increase your likelihood of an injury, such as:

  • Changing your physical activity and/or training intensity level suddenly
  • Alternating from the playing surface you’re used to, such as moving from a grass tennis court to an asphalt court
  • Chronic ankle instability can cause the ankles to “give way” and roll
  • Leg-length discrepancy, which can cause the body to compensate by pulling on the Achilles tendon
  • Excessive training, such as running on inclines that expose the tendons to repeated micro-traumas
  • Excess weight puts strain on the tendon
  • Sometimes steroid injections used to reduce ankle joint pain and inflammation can weaken nearby tendons and has been associated with Achilles tendon ruptures

Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Rupture

Common symptoms of tendon injuries include:

  • Pain and swelling near the back of your leg or near your heel
  • Pain worsens with activity
  • Inability to “push off” from the injured foot or leg
  • Difficulty flexing the affected foot
  • A popping or snapping sound when the injury happens
  • Inability to stand on the toes of the injured leg

How Are Achilles Tendon Injuries Diagnosed?

Your orthopedist will perform a physical exam to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of an Achilles rupture or injury. Sometimes healthcare professionals misdiagnose Achilles tendon injuries as a sprained ankle. It is important to get the correct diagnosis so you receive the right treatment.

Your physician will examine the affected foot and leg and conduct a series of clinical assessments designed to test the integrity of the Achilles tendon and look for signs of tendinopathy, bone spurs, pain and swelling. These tests may include asking you to do simple movements such as leg lifts, hopping, or jumping to gauge your level of activity-related pain.

During your examination, you will be able to explain to your doctor if your pain is constant or comes and goes, and whether anything makes the pain better or worse. Your doctor will ask how and when the pain started while checking for issues such as swelling, tenderness, or redness. Other signs of tendinopathy include a loss of strength or range of motion.

Diagnostic imaging may be necessary if your orthopedist needs a more detailed view of the tendon, or to rule out other conditions that might be causing your tendon pain. MRI scans can reveal tendon thickening or micro-tears that are consistent with a tendon rupture or tendinopathy.

Treatment for Achilles Tendon Ruptures

The treatment plan developed for patients with Achilles tendon ruptures often depends on the patient’s age, activity level and the severity of your injury. Generally speaking, younger, more active people tend to choose surgery to repair a completely ruptured Achilles tendon, while older adults are more likely to choose nonsurgical treatments.

Nonsurgical Achilles Tendon Injury Treatments Include:

  • Resting the tendon by using crutches
  • Applying ice to the affected tendon
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) drugs
  • Utilizing a walking boot with heel wedge or cast to limit ankle movement

Surgical Achilles Tendon Rupture Treatments

If nonsurgical treatments do not work or if the tendon injury is severe, surgery may be considered. The type of surgery depends on the location of the injury and severity of the damage to the tendon. Typically, the procedure involves removal of the damaged tendon tissue or bone spurs and repairing the damaged tendon. Depending on the severity of the injured tendon, your foot and ankle surgeon may reinforce the tendon with other tendons.

Do you have any Achilles tendon injury in Orange County? Rely on our team of sports medicine and foot and ankle surgeons at Hoag Orthopedic Institute to get you back to “you.”
Call (949) 705-6493 today to book an appointment with a member of our team.

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