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An achilles tendon rupture can be partial or a total rupture there the achilles tendon is completely torn. A complete achilles tendon rupture is more common in older men who are recreational athletes and who may have a history of inflammation and degeneration.
A partial achilles rupture is a tear of part of the fibres of the achilles tendon and can be very mild or more severe. This article explains a total achilles rupture which is a complete tear of the tendon.
Symptoms of a complete achilles tendon rupture include a sudden sharp pain in the achilles tendon, often described as if being physically struck by an object or implement. This will often be accompanied by a load snap or bang noise. The athlete will be unable to walk properly or stand on tip toes. A gap may be seen in the tendon where it is torn and there is likely to be a lot of swelling. A positive result for Thompson's test can help confirm the diagnosis. The calf muscle is squeezed with the athlete lying prone. If the the foot doesn't move then a complete rupture can be suspected.
The Achilles tendon runs from the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) at the back of the lower leg and inserts in at the back of the heel. The achilles tendon can tear as a partial rupture or a total rupture. A total rupture is more common in older men who are recreational athletes.
It sometimes occurs following a history of achilles tendonitis with inflammation or degeneration of the tendon but nearly always results from a sudden event such as pushing off hard on the toes or suddenly bending the foot upwards.
If you suspect a total rupture of the achilles tendon then seek medical attention immediately. In most cases surgery is required and the sooner this takes place the higher the chances of success. If the injury is left longer than two days then the chances of a successful outcome decrease.
In addition to seeking medical treatment apply ice or cold therapy and compression. This should be emergency first aid to reduce swelling and pain. Cold and compression can also be applied throughout the rehabilitation phase as swelling is likely to be an issue with such a serious injury.
A medical professional will be able to confirm the diagnosis. Thompsons test is one way of getting an idea if the achilles tendon is completely ruptured by MRI scans can also indicate the extent of the injury. Sometimes the leg is put in a plaster cast and allowed to heal without surgery. This is generally not the preferred method, particularly for young active people. It takes longer to heal and longer to start on rehabilitation. Surgery is the most common treatment for an achilles tendon rupture.
You can expect to be out of competition for 6 to 9 months after achilles tendon surgery. This is increased to 12 months if you just have the Achilles immobilized in plaster instead of operated on. There is also a greater risk of re-injury if you do not have the surgery.