Rupture of the Achilles tendon.

Tendons are the fibrous connective tissues that connect muscles to bone in our bodies. It is their job to assist our bodies to withstand great stresses that we inflict on ourselves.  The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in our body extending from the gastrocnemius muscle in our calves to the calcaneus bone at our heel. This particular tendon allows us to simply move, walk, run and jump.

The Achilles tendon works every time the calf muscle contracts to propel the body forward. This is known as plantar flexion of our foot. The word Achilles was named after a Greek warrior who was said to be invincible in war until an arrow pieced his heel and he was defeated in battle, hence the phrase “his Achilles weakness is”…..We can experience discomfort in this area ranging from mild discomfort to severe injury.  This can range from tendonitis where the fibres become inflamed from friction between the tendon and its covering sheath normally from over use or lack of range of movement or flexibility at this juncture.  A tear or rupture may also occur where we see a partial or complete tear away from the heel bone. It is often common to see this occur where there is a quick movement performed in conjunction with a quick change of direction, IE playing sports such as squash and netball. If this happens you can hear a loud noise when the attachment lets go followed by a scream from the person as the complete detachment can be very painful. Older athletes in particular who do not stretch may also be susceptible to this condition. Traditionally this is referred to as an overuse injury, where a person may: over train, do excessive hill climbs, run on hard surfaces, a direct trauma to the area, a poor stretching regime, over tight calf muscles, poor shoe choice, or a genetic predisposition to this tendon inherited from your family. If you have a ruptured Achilles it will be quite obvious with swelling to the area and bruising appearing very quickly associated with a stabbing pain in the calf and heel area. When or if this occurs apply ice to the affected area followed by a compression bandage. You will require medical attention. Failure to treat this injury quickly will result in poor healing with damage to the fibres that can be irreversible. Your walking and general functioning can be permanent. The ruptured and damaged Achilles will need surgery this involves the tendon being re-attached to the heel bone. After surgery the patient will need to wear a cast to keep the foot/leg stable for up to 10 weeks.  When resuming activity the sports person must be careful and gradually return to their activity. Any sudden lateral movements or explosive movements particularly in the early stages will put your rehabilitation back considerably. Consider the following: assess your foot wear, ensure the heel is well cushioned and consult with an orthotic expert such as a podiatrist. Ensure you warm up before any activity, and carefully stretch the lower leg area, ensure you gradually increase your duration and intensity of activity increasing activity no more than 5% at each session. Avoid hill and running and hard surfaces.


John Hart

“Master’s In Education” (Disability) Newcastle University Australia

“Grad Cert Education” Newcastle University Australia

“Diploma Fitness/Recreation”

“Diploma of Sport and Recreation”

“Cert 4 Personal Training”

“Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach”

Member of ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association)

2 Responses to “Rupture of the Achilles tendon.”

  1. lauren July 12, 2012 at 5:51 am Permalink

    I had a client snap her Achilles the other night! Was terrible and sounded like a gunshot!

    • John Hart July 12, 2012 at 6:47 am Permalink

      YES sounds like a shot gun going off normally followed by a high pitch scream NOT GOOD and very painful with a long time for recovery….JOHN HART

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