The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Avoiding Tendonitis: Hunter Pence’s Achilles Inflammation Treatment

Posted by on Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

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It’s good news for San Francisco Giants fans: a precautionary MRI in March revealed no serious structural damage to Outfielder Hunter Pence’s Achilles tendon – only inflammation. He made his spring debut and hit a home run March 11th. But what exactly happened to the two-time World Series Champion? And what does his prognosis mean in terms of his longevity for the season, from a podiatrist’s perspective?

Achilles tendon repair
Baseball players can present with many different types of Achilles tendon problems. (Image Source: PreferredFootAnkle.com)

Achilles Inflammation

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury. When the Achilles becomes inflamed, it’s usually due to a small tear in the tissue. Symptoms of inflammation include redness, heat, swelling, pain, and/or loss of function, although inflammation can be asymptomatic as well. The pain you feel from an inflamed Achilles may be caused by blood vessels enlarging to send more fluid to the injured region, which causes tissue swelling and places pressure on surrounding nerves. The pain may also be related to an increase in hormones as more defense cells are sent to help with healing, a process which irritates nerves as well.

The Danger of Untreated Achilles Inflammation

As Medical News Today points out, in cases of chronic inflammation, different cells become active. The end result of this type of inflammation can be “the destruction of tissue, thickening, and scarring of connective tissue, [and the] death of cells or tissues.”

If the Achilles tendon remains inflamed for six to twelve months of nonsurgical treatment, the tissue usually worsens into a chronic condition called tendinitis, which increases the risk of complete tendon rupture.

According to the Insall Scott Kelly Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in New York City, “Many people mistakenly believe they can play through the pain, but tendinitis can become a serious injury if not treated properly. Resuming activities too soon may increase your healing time and put you at risk for repeated tendon injuries.”

Baseball Players & Achilles Inflammation

It’s standard protocol to bench players for a week or two if they suffer from a more serious Achilles strain or partial tear. Hence, the coaching staff decided to sit Hunter Pence out of the first two weeks of spring training games. Catching and hitting practice offer little stress on the Achilles. The real issue comes with the explosive motion of pushing off base and running to first. “It doesn’t feel normal. It doesn’t hurt. It just feels really weird,” said one MLB player recovering from Achilles injury.

There’s a lot to learn about the Achilles, but sports medicine doctors believe that taking the time to stretch properly before working out, and stretching again several times throughout the day, can go a long way toward preventing worse injury. Rest for six to twelve weeks would be ideal for Achilles tendon repair, although most pro athletes refuse to engage in Achilles-friendly activities like swimming or lifting weights and would rather participate in sport-specific activities, despite the fact that overuse was likely what triggered the initial injury.

To ensure full Achilles tendon repair, other treatments like (non-cortisone) injection therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, massage, stretching, and eccentric exercises may be advised. Orthotics and physical therapy are almost always employed for professional baseball players with Achilles tendon issues.

NYC Sports Injury Treatment

Our NYC sports medicine centers in Manhattan and Westchester specialize in Achilles injuries for professional and amateur athletes alike. Truth be told, we treat many more instances of Achilles inflammation, strain, tear, and rupture among middle-aged “weekend warrior” and recreational athletes than we do serious baseball players, but it can happen to either cohort, as you can see with Hunter Pence.

Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn more about diagnosing, treating, and preventing sports injuries in the New York City area. We can take you all the way from a full examination with imaging tests to physical therapy and the latest advances in non-invasive Achilles tendon repair, like platelet rich plasma, low-level shockwaves, and more.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.