A: The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body. It transfers power from the calf muscles to the foot. The transfer of this power allows us to sprint and jump. During running, we put 10 times our weight in force across the tendon.
Tears of the Achilles tendon often occur in middle-aged “weekend warriors.” The athlete may feel a pop, and some may look around them thinking that someone struck them in the calf. One study showed that 23 percent of these acute ruptures were missed by the initial treating physician. If there is question of rupture, MRI can confirm a tear, but usually examination is sufficient.
Treatment of Achilles ruptures is usually surgical. There is a lower re-rupture rate, improved strength and higher percentage of patients returning to sport with surgical management. There is a role for nonsurgical management in the treatment of elderly, diabetic, or low-demand patients.
Surgical treatment requires that the two torn ends of the tendon are held together with suture while the tendon heals. During this recovery time, the repair must be protected. A walking boot or cast should be worn for four to six weeks. Running starts at four months and sports at six.
Information provided by Dr. Barron Bremner, Des Moines Orthopaedic Surgeons (DMOS), 1301 Penn Ave., Suite 213, Des Moines, (515) 299-6363.