Achilles Tendon Injuries: How Serious Are They?
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, August 7th, 2015
The tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone can dog a lot of athletes. In fact, Achilles pain is one of the most common conditions we treat at The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine. This stretch of soft tissue absorbs much force when athletes land from jumps and provides the push-off power during a run, so it’s not surprising that the Achilles has a tendency to overstretch or even rupture. We see it commonly in athletes — particularly runners — in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, as well as basketball players who landed awkwardly on a rebound. Many people wonder, “Will the pain ever go away? Do I need surgery? How long is the recovery? Am I more prone to future injury?”
Will The Pain Ever Go Away?
Yes! The pain can be treated effectively by experienced sports medicine doctors who are familiar with all the latest tools and technologies of the trade. We offer innovative therapies like homeopathic injections that stimulate the body’s natural healing processes, 3-D custom orthotics to treat foot alignment issues, Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Treatment (EPAT) to stimulate healing with low frequency pressure waves, massage, range-of-motion exercises, and initial immobilization with a CAM walker boot to name a few nonsurgical approaches. When necessary, we employ several board-certified surgeons who can take you down that road to recovery as well. No matter what type of treatment you settle on, you are in good hands with our experienced team of sports medicine doctors who will take you through a complete physical therapy program to get you on the road to good health.
Do I Need Surgery?
Many factors are considered when deciding whether surgery is in the patient’s best interest:
- Type of injury: More severe injuries — like ruptures — are the best candidates for surgery.
- Age: Younger patients often opt for surgical repair to mitigate the risk of re-rupture in the future.
- Activity level: Active athletes often go in for surgery to get back to their sport within four to six months.
- Duration: Those with chronic Achilles pain are more likely to go with surgery when other options have been exhausted.
How Long Is The Recovery?
Though athletes can return to sports in about six months, it could take over a year before the tendon has reached full power again. The most difficult periods of recovery are the first week — when the pain is most palpable — and around the fourth week — when patients begin to feel depressed about the length of time it takes to heal. We find it helps to treat injured people as warriors-in-training, rather than patients in rehab. Our physical therapy is fun, dynamic and gets the endorphins going, which will all aid in recovery. Newer percutaneous repair techniques and using growth factors to expedite soft tissue repair leads to shorter wound healing times, but it could still take six to 12 months to rebuild strength. We’d like to see more progress made in treatments that speed up muscle development and boost elasticity; but at this time, a sports medicine doctor’s focus on strength and conditioning, along with the patient’s dedication and determination, provide the best chances for the quickest and most efficient recovery.
Am I More Prone To Future Injury?
You’ll see many different statistics attempting to capture the re-rupture rate. An overview of literature pertaining to athletes 30 and under cited one study with re-rupture rates of 8.3% in patients treated non-surgically and 4.4% in the operative group and another study with re-rupture rates of 17.7% for nonsurgical patients and 1.54% in surgically treated patients.1http://www.udel.edu/PT/PT%20Clinical%20Services/journalclub/sojc/04_05/apr05/rettig.pdf An article on Medscape puts the re-rupture risk as high as 20-40% for non-surgically treated patients.2http://www.medicinenet.com/achilles_tendon_rupture/page6.htm While these statistics may sound discouraging, The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine experts place a heavy emphasis on injury prevention and give you all the tools you need to stay healthy well beyond your time with us. Contact a NYC sports medicine doctor to start your recovery training.
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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. 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.