The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord present behind the ankle, connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is used when you walk, run and jump. The Achilles tendon ruptures most often in athletes participating in sports that involve running, pivoting and jumping. Recreational sports that may cause the Achilles rupture include tennis, football, basketball and gymnastics.
When the Achilles tendon ruptures, you will experience severe pain in the back of your leg above your heel, swelling, stiffness and difficulty to stand on tiptoe, and push the leg when walking. A popping or snapping sound may be heard when the injury occurs.
Your doctor diagnoses the rupture based on your symptoms, history of the injury and physical examination. Your doctor may also feel a gap or depression in the tendon, just above the heel bone. Your doctor will gently squeeze the calf muscles. If the Achilles tendon is intact, there will be flexion movement of the foot, if it is ruptured, there will be no movement observed.
Achilles tendon rupture is treated using nonsurgical or surgical methods. Nonsurgical treatment involves wearing a cast or special brace that lifts your heel, allowing the tendon to heal. The surgical procedure involves opening the skin and suturing the torn tendon together. Surgery helps to decrease the recurrence of the Achilles tendon in comparison to the nonsurgical treatment. With either treatment, physical therapy is recommended to improve the strength and flexibility of leg muscles and the Achilles tendon.
To help prevent an Achilles tendon injury, it is a good practice to perform stretching and warm-up exercises before participating in any exercises or sports activities. Gradually increase the intensity and length of activity. Muscle conditioning may help to strengthen the muscles in the body.