Achilles tendon rupture
FITNESS & NUTRITION
Running & FitNews,
FITNESS & NUTRITION
Running & FitNews, Nov, 1999
Runners can give their Achilles tendon quite a beating if they aren't careful. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body, connecting the muscles of the lower leg (soleus and gastrocnemius) to the heel bone. Its job is to transfer the force of muscular contractions to lift the heel. Many runners develop Achilles tendonitis, which is inflammation of this tendon.
Although a rupture is not likely to occur during running, explosive movements when your tendon is tight or inflamed can make it happen. You'll hear of a runner getting a rupture during weekend tennis or basketball, or during intensive jump training or speed work. Explosive movements after steroid infections for Achilles tendonitis can make the tendon very vulnerable and weak.
Signs and Symptoms
An Achilles rupture can feel as if someone hit you or threw a rock at your heel. The injury usually occurs at the push-off phase when a great amount of stress is placed on the tendon. The audible "pop" usually accompanies the rupture with pain one to two inches above the heel. The pain can quickly quiet down and you can walk, but with an altered gait. Unable to push-off from the ball of the foot, the foot must be lifted off the ground flat instead of the usual rolling step.
It is impossible to rise up on the ball of the foot with an Achilles tendon rupture because the connection between the muscles and the tendon has been interrupted. If your ankle is only sprained, then a heel raise may be painful, but possible. An MRI can confirm the rupture and the extent of damage.
Inflammation: Achilles tendinitis may predispose a runner to rupture. Inflammation is often due to overtraining or improper training. Some studies show that 20% of rupture victims experienced Achilles tendinitis. Symptoms include pain and stiffness at the back of the heel, especially when taking the first steps after prolonged sitting or first thing in the morning. These symptoms may also occur after cool-down from walking, running, or jumping activities.
Inflexibility: The cumulative effect of the development of leg muscles without adequate stretching and flexibility can set the stage for rupture.
Biome hanics: Certain structural abnormalities and biomechanical errors can predispose a runner to Achilles tendinitis and rupture. Possibilities include worn running shoes with a flattened arch, too much hill running, and being overweight.
(Easton Germain, M.P.T., of Metro Orthopedics and Sports Therapy, Washington, D.C. contributed to this article)
RELATED ARTICLE: Achilles tendon rupture The tendon connecting the calf muscles and the foot is completely severed.
Related Conditions Achilles tendinitis, Achilles tendinosis, ankle strains, ankle sprains
Cross Training Cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing
1999 American Running & Fitness Association