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What is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The Achilles tendon is a long group of fibers that attaches the bottom of the heel to the calf muscles and is responsible for allowing the foot to lift off the ground to walk. An Achilles tendon rupture occurs when the fibers are stretched to the point of ripping or completely splitting. The rupture causes intense pain and interferes with a person’s ability to walk and tends to be more common in athletes.

When a person has an Achilles tendon rupture, he or she may feel a cracking sensation right near the back of the leg. Since the fibers are not able to properly connect the heel to the calf muscles, a person will not be able to push his or her foot off the ground to walk. Other common symptoms of a rupture are inflammation of the heel and lower leg, as well as pain in the area. The amount of pain may depend on the severity of the rupture.

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An Achilles tendon rupture is usually the result of a bout of excessive pressure suddenly placed onto the foot. Athletes who play sports that require quick foot movement, such as tennis, basketball, and running, are at a higher risk of a rupture because they are more likely to jump and land forcefully on their feet. The injury can also occur if a person accidentally walks into a hole and lands on his or her foot, as well as if a person jumps off a tall surface onto the ground.

The injury is most often treated with surgery, in which a surgeon cuts into the lower calf and repairs the rupture by sewing the torn fibers back together. The tendon takes approximately eight weeks to heal enough for a person to walk without assistance from crutches or a brace. Mild cases can be treated by having a person wear a cast on his or her lower leg to prevent additional stress while allowing the tendon to heal itself. After the initial treatment option, a person will usually have to go through physical therapy in which he or she performs exercises to strength the lower leg and foot muscles under a trained therapist’s supervision.

Although an Achilles tendon rupture due to an accident cannot be prevented, an athlete can lower his or her risk by lightly stretching the calf muscles before participating in any physical activity. He or she can also wear shoes that fit properly and give the calf and heel adequate support and cushioning. People who are overweight are more likely to rupture their tendons due to the strain from the extra weight, so losing weight can help reduce their risks.

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