Achilles Tendon Rupture

Achilles tendon ruptureA total rupture of the achilles tendon is a complete tear of the tendon and typically affects men over the age of 40 involved in recreational sport.

It is not always recognized at the time of injury, however it is very important it is treated properly as soon as possible to increase the chances of a good recovery.

Symptoms

Symptoms include a sudden sharp pain in the achilles tendon which is often described as if being physically struck by an object or implement. A loud snapping noise or bang may also be heard at the time. There are four simple tests that can be done to help in the diagnosis of achilles tendon ruptures.

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Anatomy

The Achilles tendon runs from the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg and inserts at the back of the heel or calcaneus bone. Large forces are transmitted through the tendon when running and jumping. The tendon itself is surrounded by a thin sheath.

Causes

A torn achilles can be a partial rupture or a total rupture. A total rupture is more common in men affecting them 10 times more than women. Injury typically occurs 30 to 40 minutes into a period of exercise rather than at the start of a session and nearly always happens from a sudden explosive movement or bending the foot upwards (known as dorsi flexing).

Many patients are able to continue to function following an achilles rupture due to other muscles compensating, although the injured leg will be significantly weaker.

Treatment

If a total rupture of the achilles tendon is suspected then apply cold therapy and compression and seek medical attention as soon as possible. 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 may decrease. Sometimes the leg is put in a cast and allowed to heal without surgery. A full rehabilitation program is necessary following surgery with the patient being out of competition for between 6 and 12 months.

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