The Achilles tendon is a tissue cord on the back of the foot connecting muscles in the calf to the heel bone. Rupture of the Achilles tendon occurs when it is stretched too far, or the individual makes a sudden move. During the rupture, some people hear a popping sound and then feel a sharp pain in the lower leg and back of the ankle. Some people feel no symptoms when they experience an Achilles tendon rupture, while others have severe pain and swelling and may lose the ability to stand on the injured foot, bend the foot down, or push off when walking.
Although anyone can get an Achilles tendon rupture, they happen more often to people who play sports. The intense running, jumping, and sudden starts and stops make athletes more vulnerable. To protect themselves, people who are active in sports should make sure to strengthen and stretch the calf muscle until they feel a noticeable pull. They also should avoid bouncing during stretching, and practice calf-strengthening exercises. Participants in high-impact sports should vary their exercise routines to avoid putting consistent stress on the Achilles tendons. The key is to avoid overusing this muscle and increase training intensity slowly, by no more than ten percent weekly. Any pain should be immediately investigated.
Older adults are a well-noted vulnerable group when it comes to fall-related injuries. According to American Bone Health, more than 30 percent of adult age 65 and older in the United States fall each year. Falls are also the leading cause of non-fatal injuries, hospitalization, and death in this demographic. Achilles tendon ruptures happen most frequently to people between the ages of 30 and 50. Typically, it is the result of a fall, and 80 percent of these falls happen while participating in recreational sports.
There is a risk of experiencing an Achilles tendon rupture that has very little to do with sports or factors inside of your body. Many people slip, trip, or stumble without falling when they step into a hole in the sidewalk or street. This can cause the tendon to pop completely, depending on how suddenly the foot twists on impact. This is a danger for which most people cannot prepare. The only way to prevent such accidents is to stay aware of your surroundings, know where you are stepping, and wear protective shoes.
Doctors may decide to treat injuries and other conditions by injecting steroids into the ankle joint to reduce pain and inflammation. Pain in the hips, elbows, spine, knees, wrist or shoulder may also be treated in this fashion. Healthcare facilities often limit the number of shots a patient can receive in a year to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, or tendinitis. The steroids can weaken nearby tendons and doctors have associated this treatment with Achilles tendon ruptures.
Although researchers are not sure what antibiotics do to cause tendonitis, there is significant evidence that they can lead to ruptures. Antibiotics have had this effect in the Achilles tendon as well as the shoulder and hand. Regulatory agencies have delivered warning about this potential danger to people over 60 who have had lung, heart, or kidney transplants and are taking corticosteroids as post-operative therapy.
People who are obese are at a greater risk of falling and breaking bones because they experience deteriorating bone density and muscle mass more than those who maintain a healthy weight. The excess weight also puts more strain on the tendons. For decades, people used to believe heavier individuals had healthier bones because they were supporting more weight. While this may be true to an extent, research shows abdominal fat also has a negative impact on bone and muscle strength. It is more toxic than the fat in other places on the body and can increase inflammation. A lot of research focuses on the impact being overweight has on the cardiovascular system and other illnesses.
Men are five times more susceptible to Achilles tendon ruptures than women. This may be related in part to the higher number of men playing recreational sports than women, or how men are active in their daily lives. Men are also more likely to rupture their Achilles tendon during sexual activity. The positioning of the feet and ankles, and the strain some men place on their tendons during sex, place them at a higher risk for injury.
The common age range for Achilles tendon rupture is 30 to 50. Primarily, this happens because older tendons lose strength. As we get older, the Achilles tendon thins out and gets weaker and more susceptible to injury. Tendon fiber bundles also stiffen as they age. Aging leads to decreased resistance to repetitive activity injuries that involve the ankle and heel.
People who run or train on hilly surfaces are placing themselves at risk for Achilles tendon ruptures. Depending on the steepness of the hill, an athlete can stretch the tendon beyond its limits and pop it. Running uphill requires the individual to work harder to overcome gravity. People running hills should take care not to lean too far forward at the waist. This makes it harder to use the hip flexors correctly to bring up the knee when stepping forward and throws the runner off balance. This awkward posture also prevents effective pushes off the ground. Instead, stand tall when running up a hill to get the momentum to swing the muscles and take the next step.
Many athletes battle Achilles tendon ruptures because of the sudden, jerk-like movements they make during competitive sports such as basketball or tennis. For sports players, the rupture can occur without a specific injury, and most have no pain in the tendons before the rupture occurs. The best defense against this kind of injury is stretching the calf muscles several times a day.
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